Speaking as a former local authority street lighting designer, I can state with confidence that although I left the role almost ten years ago, the provision of public street lighting is a power and not a duty.
But what does this mean in plain language? Well, the advantage to your local council is a purely financial one. Under this arrangement, should you be walking along the road and injure yourself in the reduced visibility beneath a broken street light, there’s a very good chance that you will not be able to build a claim against them for negligence or failure to maintain their equipment. Because they are not duty-bound to provide those lampposts and lights in the first place.
Here’s a court case expanding on this point, which involves my former employer, Cheshire West & Chester Council. I finally left this employer (and there lies a tale) just a month before this incident:
The very latest
I’ve just learned today from extremely clued-up campaigner Ian R Crane that British Telecom-owned company EE is planning to launch 5G in 6 UK cities; London, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Birmingham & Manchester starting at the end of May… (the end of May – there’s some wishful thinking on the ongoing, calculated ‘chaos’ of Brexit):
Although the regulatory authorities are extremely keen to have Chinese firm Huawei jumping through hoops to obtain their 5G certifications, matters are rather more relaxed when it comes to providing the public with some – any – reassurance that the technology is not hazardous to human health.
You see, in the rush to provide us with superfast broadband and themselves with eye-watering profits, they haven’t been required by UK government or its regulatory partners to commission any independent safety tests.
This dangerous ‘cart before the horse’ situation also applies in the United States and elsewhere.
Some more about me
One of my previous occupations was in the Royal Navy, a long time before my street lighting escapade. Here, I worked in radio communications – on both ships and shore bases – for a period of 7 years between 1976 and 1983. So along with street lighting, I also happen to have a very good understanding of radio propagation, the ups and downs, the ins and outs and basically, how far around the world you could expect to fling your signal, be it voice, morse, radio automatic teletype (giving my age away here) when taking into account terrain, time of day / night, power and frequency requirements.
I remember with alarming clarity the vivid red circles painted on the deck, around ship-mounted, High Frequency (HF), high power whip ariels. Basically, the received wisdom for us radio people or “sparkers” on this was to do with male fertility, “do not enter this area if you want to be in a position to father children when you’re a big boy.“
The technical bit
And as far as radio propagation goes with 5G, we’re talking microwave, millimetre band radiation within the SHF band of super high frequencies, or between 3 and 30 Gigahertz. 5G itself occupies the narrower Long Term Evolution (LTE) ranges of between 600 Mhz to 6 Ghz / 24 Ghz to 86 Ghz, with superfast data rates expected of 20 Gigabits per second inside the latter group of millimetre bands.
The problem with this bandwidth is that although it’s line of sight, there are power losses – and therefore £economic losses – requiring signal relaying transceivers to be mounted at least 150 metres apart. Taller masts would provide economic benefits, greater distances between masts would give better coverage, but 25 metres in height is the legal limit.
Crucially, the higher the frequency – in this case up to 86 Ghz – the lower the signal range.
This is where 30 metre-spaced 8 to 10 metre street lighting columns come in
Presumably, a large proportion of this EE roll-out (and other subsequent ones) will involve the use of tall buildings, independently installed masts and millions – yes, millions – of council lampposts (on average 8 and 10 metre main road lighting columns have an approximate 30-metre design spacing). I’d envisage that negotiations between local authorities and telecoms companies (particularly BT / EE) have either reached a very advanced stage or are now concluded.
However, read this article from the Guardian recently (sometimes it contains largely non-political news which is covered very well and done without any recourse to #fakery). Again I’d like to thank Ian R Crane for bringing my attention to this:
And finally…the crux of this blog post
As the provision of public street lighting is a power and not a duty, when a local authority agrees to make its lighting stock available for dual-purpose use, that of enabling a technologically advanced, although thoroughly dubious, non-safety tested telecommunications network, which is invisibly zapping out microwaves in all directions, often at high power, then matters get quite complicated.
Local authorities, be they County, Unitary, District or Parish councils all have one thing in common; a constitution. Here’s a link to the constitution of my local council, Wirral.
I echo the words of Ian R Crane here. Let’s examine these documents, find the public pledges they’ve made and hold their feet to the fire.
From page 8, for example, here’s something you, Wirral reader, were probably not aware of. So the next time Councillor Bloggs tries to close you down or fob you off, hold his feet to the fire and quote it back at him:
The Council welcomes participation by its citizens in its work
As for the power and duty thing, how can a council potentially say to you as a citizen in the near future that they have a duty to help citizens achieve superfast 5G connection speeds, if the equipment they’re talking about is mounted on a lamppost which they had *absolutely no duty* to provide?
The RF signal may not breach the walls, but it will stream through the glass of your windows and bounce around the room. If your baby or toddler is put to bed for 10 to 12 hours every night in the vicinity of a 5G, microwave emitting, street lighting lantern-mounted transceiver, i.e. between 3 and 5 metres away from it – and your baby develops a cancer – did the council exceed their power by agreeing to have the offending 5G transceiver fitted on top of a street lighting lantern, *which they had no duty* to install?
Currently, it seems to me that councils may want it both ways, i.e. no responsibility in law for failing to maintain their lighting equipment and then the facility to rebuff any potential claims should personal injury cases arise connected to the retrofitting of non-safety tested, potentially hazardous 5G infrastructure.