A Barnet resident has spent more than £18,000 battling the council over claims new streetlights are harming her health.
Sasha Rodoy, who lives in Elm Way, Friern Barnet, says the glare from the LED lights installed by Barnet Council is “painful” and disturbs her sleep – and she wants the authority to replace them with low-intensity, amber-coloured lights.
Sasha says she suffers from photophobia – a heightened sensitivity to light – caused by eye surgery several years ago, and her condition has been exacerbated by the installation of the LED lamps because of the blue light rays they emit.
The council began installing the energy-efficient lights in 2019, claiming they “would provide a better and brighter source of white light” and ensure less light pollution reached residents’ homes. The LED lights are expected to save the council £750,000 per year.
But Sasha said that when the lights in her street were switched on in January 2020, she left her house in the evening and thought she had “walked out on to a football pitch”.
She said: “I live in Elm Way – a tiny cul-de-sac. I’m on a corner, and there are four lamp-posts. Three of them shine into every single window of my house and across my garden – and Barnet [Council] has suggested it has turned down the lights, which does not really make a lot of difference.
“The one that is really problematic is directly opposite my garden wall. The light goes across my garden and into my living room – and because I am photophobic, even going for a walk is problematic because of those lights.
“The glare is painful. I wear sunglasses at night time – the lights are horrendous.”
Sasha is now taking the council to court over the issue but says this could have been avoided if the council had engaged with her when she first contacted the local authority in 2018, before the lights were installed, but her concerns were not taken seriously.
She added that she started her legal claim at the end of 2020, after which the council turned the lights down and fitted shields – which she described as “just useless”.
Sasha said court proceedings had recently been stayed because the council had asked for another chance to try fitting more shields on the lights. She claimed the council did not do due diligence and check how LED lights affect people with photophobia and autism, adding that she believed the installation was mainly about saving money.
The Friern Barnet resident said: “I walk my dog and have to look down at the pavement because of the totally unnecessary glare from these lights.
“We are all keen to save the environment and energy, but why did they not use amber lights – the same colour as the previous sodium lights? There is no reason whatsoever why they could not do that.”
Sasha said other people across the country had been affected by LED street lamps. Charity LightAware has submitted evidence to a House of Lords inquiry citing “significant negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of light-disabled and light-sensitive individuals”.
The charity’s submission adds: “LightAware believe that the introduction of external LED lighting in the UK, particularly LED street lighting, has been rushed through without an adequate consideration of the long-term effect of the resulting light pollution on people’s health.”
Other Barnet residents also claim to have been disturbed by the lamps. Ajait Patel, of Firs Avenue, Friern Barnet, said he had to swap bedrooms after the LED lamps were installed because the light shining into the room was so bright – despite having put up blackout blinds and curtains to block it out.
A council spokesperson said: “As court proceedings are ongoing, we cannot comment.”