An ambitious scheme to replace more than 40,000 streetlamps across the county is now more than half complete.

The authority is 22 months  into a three year contract to replace Northumberland’s lamp-posts with more efficient LED lights in an ambitious £23m scheme which will ultimately produce overall energy savings of around 64% – or around £1.3m a year.

The work is now more than half way through, with around 24,000 new units installed. And such is the complex nature of replacing thousands of lights, engineers have been working on innovative solutions to overcome some technical difficulties.

One example is the use of new “slipper columns” where appropriate, which fit over the top of the stump of the old lamp-posts and are firmly concreted into the ground in the normal way. The new column meets all of the structural requirements and looks no different to a full replacement – but saves time and costs by avoiding the need to change the power supply.

As with any major scheme there have been some snagging issues and in Ashington, the first town in Northumberland to receive the new LED streetlights,the contractor’s initial designs were found to be inadequate and didn’t meet the required lighting levels.

Some extra work has now been carried out and the council has been working with the contractor on further modifications and new lighting designs that will resolve the problem, the work is now due to start at the end of the month which will last around 12 weeks. This remedial work is being undertaken by a separate sub-contractor to avoid any delays to the main work programme.

Council leader Grant Davey said: “These lights have made a great improvement in many areas, improving both driver and pedestrian safety, as well as delivering good levels of energy savings.

“The way major projects like this work means it is not as simple as doing every light in one town then moving to the next, it is often the case that teams will return to areas to complete the switchover once engineering solutions are found when issues emerge.

“As we have progressed with the scheme we have come across issues with a number of types of posts and lights, including the need to improve existing or provide new power supply connections, which has meant we have had to leave these lights whilst completing the rest of the surrounding lights in an area.

“We appreciate this can be frustrating for residents who would like to see the scheme complete in their area, but we can assure people that we will be coming back to all these locations and that the vast majority of these issues now have solutions that we will be able to  implement in the near future.

“Residents can be reassured we continue to take a robust approach to ensure the contractor meets their obligations to that we are doing everything we can to ensure this ambitious programme remains on track.”