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Study reveals the UK councils investing the most in eco-conscious street lighting

ByDave Stopher

Aug 22, 2021

In recent years, sustainability has become a key factor in our everyday lives. From the introduction of regional low emission zones or local council adoption of food waste bins, we are constantly evolving into a more ecologically minded nation.  

In 2019, the UK even became the first country to require their government by law to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

In line with this new way of thinking, many councils across the UK decided to embrace LED Street Lighting – a more environmentally sound alternative to the traditional lamp posts we rely on. 

So, why LED? Well, there are many reasons, even beyond the environmental impacts – glare reduction, brightness and weather withstanding to name but a few.  

LED’s do not contain the same harmful materials that traditional street lighting does. Conventional bulbs contain lead, mercury and emit poisonous gasses. As lead and mercury pollution is already a critical issue in Europe, a movement towards eco-conscious street lighting, like LEDs, is crucial. 

Plus, LED bulbs can be up to 80 percent more efficient than conventional, so when this change is spread across the country the impact is huge.  

In the UK, councils are beginning to take this environmental change seriously. But while some councils have not yet invested in the LED transition, others have spent hundreds or thousands on eco street lighting.  


Researchers at The Lighting Superstore have analysed the results from 61 councils over the UK to find those who have installed the most sustainable street lighting in the last five years. 

For the money spent and fixtures installed, London and Manchester are our table toppers. London has invested £124,848,312 in their 236,115 LED streetlights, whereas Manchester has installed 54,625 LED streetlights, costing £39,143,03. 

Both of these city councils pride themselves on being sustainably minded. Manchester has declared its aim to be carbon neutral by 2038 – 12 years ahead of the national average. London, on the other hand, has deemed air pollution their main ecological priority, introducing road charges for polluting vehicles.  

Of London’s 32 Boroughs (plus City of London), Barnet installed the most with 29,472. 

It’s worth acknowledging the size of these top 2 cities. Smaller cities will likely have lower numbers of LED fixtures, as they would’ve had a smaller number to begin with. That’s perhaps why Sunderland’s 3rd place is so impressive. 

Sunderland has 46,859 LED streetlights in total, only 7,766 less than Manchester, despite being significantly smaller and more sparsely populated than the North West hub. 

While this paints the Sunderland council in a positive light, city leaders have recently launched investigations into their environmental services, suggesting there may be other areas of slack. 

Completing the top five are Doncaster and Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. The two are neck and neck, with Doncaster’s impressive 45,326 fixtures, only just beating Edinburgh’s 43,996. 


Out of all the respondents, only two areas haven’t invested in LED streetlights since 2016 – Crawley and Worthing. However, West Sussex County Council say they are in the final stages of starting a 4-year, £26.5m scheme to convert streetlights in Worthing and Crawley to LEDsThe scheme will potentially go ahead later in 2021. 

Worthing council has recently opted to invest more into cracking down on litter, so their delay in interest in LED streetlights is surprising. 

Following in third-bottom is Basingstoke. In the last five years, Basingstoke Council has only installed 31 LED streetlights. For spending, they have landed themself in the same ranking position paying out just £12,555. 

However, Basingstoke has had issues in recent years as unhappy residents started a petition against streetlights being turned off between 1 and 4 AM to preserve energy. Hopefully, with further LED installation, this will become a non-issue. 

Nottingham and Cambridge complete the bottom of the table, with 78 and 273 LED streetlights respectively installed at this time. 

So, why are councils being put off LED installation? Their initial installment can be expensive, which may be inaccessible for some councils.  

That said, they do cut costs in the long run while also reducing carbon emissions. For example, Kent County Council reported their switch to LEDs will likely save them around £5.2 million based on current energy prices.  

If councils have the funding, to begin with, this can be a smart financial decision, as well as a sustainable one, but with the ‘local government funding gap’, there will be some places where this is not a possibility. 

For further analysis, find The Lighting Superstore’s post here.