Lit up school buildings climate concern raised by Midlothian Provost

A policy to light up school buildings at night for security reasons is facing scrutiny amid claims it goes against current climate concerns.

By Marie Sharp, LDR
Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 3:57 pm
Midlothian Provost, Cllr Peter Smaill (Conservatives)
Midlothian Provost, Cllr Peter Smaill (Conservatives)

Midlothian Provost Peter Smaill questioned the’green’ credentials of the local authority’s school lighting policy. At a virtual meeting of Midlothian’s Police and Fire Rescue Board, Councillor Smaill said he had received a complaint about a school being lit up during the night.

And he said while he did not want to play down the need for security on school grounds there may be more modern approaches the council could take.

Speaking to the board, Cllr Smaill said: “I think we are all conscious there were serious fires in 2020 in Peebles and Dunfermline and we obviously don’t want to run any risks, but on the other side of the debate I’ve had a complaint about light pollution caused by our policy, as it seems, of keeping the lights on in schools all night long.

“Clearly with all the green pressures on us this is not a very desirable thing quite apart from the impact on the residents. I just wonder if technology has moved on so that motion sensitive lighting and vapour clouds technology might mean that we could do something in this area or possibly simply turn down the intensity of the lights.”

The council’s chief officer of place Derek Oliver said he had asked the relevant departments to clarify the situation at schools to establish what could be done to tackle the issue. He said: “It is something which is a very valid question in terms of the climate aspect.”

A spokesperson for Midlothian Council said that current lighting outside school buildings was there for security reasons.

They said: “We have emergency lighting at the end of corridors that are on even when the school building is empty. This is to make sure anyone inside could find escape routes in the event of a fire, for example. It’s very low level lighting and wouldn’t cause light pollution in any way. Externally, we have some wall and lamppost lights in school playgrounds. This is for security reasons and insurance purposes to help deter and detect criminal activity and wilful fire raising.

“We remain committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and we’re confident we can achieve that while keeping our buildings safe.”