Seeing clearly: How lighting can make London a better city

With a focus on lighting, this 2021 report from Centre for London argues that cites such as London often lack a strategic approach to lighting. It demonstrates, however, that better lighting in our centres can help to tackle pressing challenges such climate change, as well as provide a number of other benefits around safety and wellbeing. A series of practical recommendations to enhance lighting in our cities are outlined, including a ‘good lighting toolkit’. Although the focus is on London, other places could draw insight from this resource.

Date added 12 October 2021
Last updated 12 October 2021

This report begins by acknowledging how, despite being an integral aspect of city life, lighting is often neglected or not considered strategically when planning, designing and managing city centres, noting that (p.13):

Light influences all aspects of city life. It affects how we move around the city, and it supports economic, cultural and civic activities as well as sport and exercise. Light can create feelings of joy and warmth – or insecurity and danger... Nonetheless, there is relatively little public discussion about this essential element of city life. Perhaps because lighting is such an integral part of our day-to-day activity, we take it for granted.

Based on a review of academic literature, policy documents, and development plans around lighting, interviews with 15 policymakers and practitioners, and lighting investment information, the report demonstrates the benefits of good lighting and provides insight into how this can be practically realised. For instance, a ‘good lighting toolkit’ is provided (p. 11), which argues the following should be factored into any lighting intervention:

Purpose- understand who the users are and what they are using lighting for.

Sustainability- consider how impacts on the environment can be reduced, such as the use of energy-efficient lighting and avoiding light spills.

Evidence- interventions should be based on both quantitative and qualitative evidence.

Participation- current and potential users of lighting should participate in its design.

Expertise- lighting designers are important stakeholders to be utilised in schemes.

Flexibility- lighting schemes should be flexible to changing user needs over time.

Restraint- it should be acknowledged that bright lighting is not always better.

Context- the wider surroundings of lighting should be considered.

Ownership - a consistent lighting approach across places should be taken.

The impact city lighting can have upon a number of areas of urban life is next considered, including safety and security; social interactions; place activation; wellbeing; and natural environment. The report then moves onto how decisions about urban lighting are made, covering changing lighting infrastructure; resources; involved stakeholders; regulatory frameworks and design issues to consider, alongside example case studies.

The report concludes by proposing a series of recommendations to achieve better lighting in London, stressing the importance of:

Vision, guidance, standards- the development of lighting strategies and frameworks to guide lighting schemes and interventions, to sit alongside broader night-time strategies.

Design process- lighting interventions should be designed by drawing on wider evidence, research into use of spaces, and through community and lighting designer participation.

Education- it is important to enhance knowledge of lighting, such as through creating a hub for lighting resources, sharing best practice case studies, and educational/training programmes to upskill in the area of lighting.

Managing light- coordination is vital to manage lighting across a complex urban environment, drawing on existing town centre partnerships, BIDs, and community groups.