THOUSANDS of street lights across the borough are set to be replaced with new columns and LED lanterns as the council agrees to a multi-million pound investment.

The five-year programme, which will cost the council £5.5m, will see all concrete and steel columns which are eight metres or more in height and more than 35 years old replaced.

A total of 3,194 are due to be replaced as well as those which have failed due to frost damage or accidents.

Cabinet member for Environment Alan Quinn urged his colleagues to approve the investment for the new "all singing, all dancing" street lights at a meeting last week.

He said: "They need replacing. It's like anything else – they are worn out."

New LED lanterns will be installed when the street lighting columns are replaced which means the local authority could adopt a "trimming and dimming" policy should it wish to alter lighting levels in the future.

Interim director of operations Dave Brown told the cabinet that the move would create a saving for the council in the long run, but the primary reason for the investment is "asset management".

If the investment was not approved, lighting columns –which typically have a life of 40 years – would be cut down to remove potential danger, according to Cllr Quinn.

He said that some lighting columns have already been "chopped" down because of safety concerns.

But a report which was presented to cabinet said that removing street lights without replacing them could lead to an increase in crime and road traffic accidents.

Councillors were also given the option of taking £2m out from the cash put aside for highways improvements and spending it on new lighting instead – but they were recommended to invest the full £5.5m.

The lighting columns will be replaced taking a "risk-based" approach, which means only those more than eight metres in height will be considered.

They will be replaced on a "whole street basis", according to the report.

An average of 138 individual columns which are found to be damaged will also be swapped every year.

Concrete columns are particularly susceptible to frost damage while a number of columns are damaged by vehicles every year.

Where the vehicle owner can be traced, they are recharged the cost of repairs – but this is not always possible.

The new LED lanterns will be able to report itself as faulty, give the council the opportunity to change lighting levels and save on energy.

The potential energy saving once all work is complete could be as much as £90,000 per year.

There is no statutory requirement to provide street lighting, but it is recognised as making a "significant contribution" to road safety.