New report: How lighting can make London a better city

10 March 2021

A new report by think tank Centre for London argues that London government needs to take a serious look at the way the capital is lit. The report sets out a new vision for lighting London with recommendations to improve lighting quality as a way of supporting economic recovery and meeting sustainability goals.

Lighting is a low cost, environmentally sustainable way to make public spaces safer, more liveable and more fun, but it is often overlooked. With no city-wide lighting strategy and only two of London’s 33 local authorities having a local strategy, the report argues that better lighting needs to be given greater priority by London government, developers and landlords.

The report was cofunded by the Rothschild Foundations, the Illuminated River Foundation, Funders Greater London Authority, and Supporting Sponsors City of London Corporation and Cross River Partnership to build on work instigated by the Illuminated River to measure luminance levels and light pollution along the banks of the Thames.

To improve the quality of London’s lighting, Centre for London report argues that the Mayor of London could support local authorities to develop their own lighting strategies. These would set out plans to improve the quality of public lighting across their borough and guide the regulation of lighting from public and private sources. The London Plan’s policy on public realm has raised the city’s ambition on lighting in new developments, and the Mayor of London could go further by creating a lighting resource hub to showcase good and poor examples of lighting across the city.

To improve practice on the ground, the report calls for local authorities to engage lighting designers early on in lighting plans and give high street and town centre managers more responsibility for coordinating public and private lighting.

To raise public awareness of the benefits and costs of light, the report also encourages local authorities to pilot dimming or switching-off events, coinciding with established events such as Earth Day. Londoners could also be given more say in how their neighbourhoods are lit, with funding being made available for communities to bid for lighting improvements.

Sarah Gaventa, Director of the Illuminated River Foundation said “The research Illuminated River undertook into the lighting around the Thames (included in the first ever luminance study of this area of central London) raised concerns, as we found lighting well above recommended levels creating light pollution, areas lit far longer than needed, and an absence of smart technology. We felt there was a lack of knowledge sharing and wanted to encourage some coordinated London-wide thought leadership to help create a night-time that is more sustainable and environmentally friendly, works harder for Londoners and yet reveals the beauty of our city. This is why we instigated this study by the Centre for London and gathered key partners together prompting a new focus on this rather neglected subject, and we welcome this much needed report.”

Seeing Clearly: How lighting can make London a better city is available to download from the Centre for London website.