Clause 102 - Statutory nuisance: lighting

Part of Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 1st February 2005.

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Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 9:15 am, 1st February 2005

Yes, I can give a cast-iron assurance on that point. I have already said that guidance will be a matter for consultation, but we do not see any problem with it. The target is not that perceived by the hon. Member for Vale of York. There might be occasions when badly sited lights cause unnecessary   hardship to those in the vicinity, but in such cases we would expect the problem to be resolved through discussion between the local authority and those responsible for the lighting.

As for new facilities, I was talking to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism last week, before we received the letter from the FA. He referred to the way in which technology has moved on. It allows much better targeting of light in new facilities, so that there is not much impact on those in the area and the best possible quality of lighting is provided for those who take part in sporting activities.

For many years before entering Parliament, I spent much time as a youth worker and a councillor, improving and increasing the facilities available in my area, so I am not without knowledge of the discussions that are necessary to provide such facilities. More generally, the guidance will make it clear that the provisions on artificial lighting should be introduced in a reasonable and proportionate way and that every effort must be made to resolve problems by negotiation, with enforcement action taken only as a last resort.

Many of the same arguments apply to amendment No. 58. Like many other industrial facilities, premises or apparatus used for the provision of electronic communication services clearly need adequate lighting for operation and security purposes. The law on statutory nuisance recognised the need for industry to be able to carry out its usual functions, and that is further protected by the defence of ''best practical means''. I shall return to those three important words. For those reasons, it is not necessary to single out communication services for particular protection.

Amendment No. 57, which would extend the provision to apply public nuisance legislation specifically to street lights on public highways, is in a different category. Local authorities are responsible for street lighting and for applying the law on statutory nuisance. Rather than giving local authorities the theoretical ability to issue abatement notices on themselves, it is better to deal with light pollution from street lighting by other means. Modern lighting design can already provide street lighting that does not waste energy and directs light only where it is wanted. That is used increasingly when lighting is replaced and is common for new lighting schemes.

The Government made £300 million available in private finance initiative credits in 2003-04 to help local authorities in England—those outside London—to modernise their street lighting. In London, a further £85 million in PFI credits will be available for street lighting over the next three years. That is additional to support provided through the revenue support grant.

Amendment No. 117 would create ambiguity, which would complicate the provision. For example, what is the minimum amount of light necessary to meet statutory requirements? Most of the exemptions are   for transport facilities and are necessary because we need to put it beyond doubt or further qualification that artificial lighting used at the premises does not qualify as statutory nuisance. Moving vehicles represent a danger to health and safety. Movements are often complex in the sort of facilities referred to under the clause, and lighting outside and at night must be used. Ports and airports have international obligations that require the provision of adequate lighting for safety and security. Moreover, transport tends to operate at all hours and requires essential maintenance at night to ensure that vehicles and the infrastructure are operational during the day.

I appreciate some of the points made by the hon. Member for Guildford about the way in which some transport facilities operate, but those matters are best dealt with elsewhere rather than in the neighbourhood considerations under the Bill.