THEY were hailed as the new light source that would save local authorities millions of pounds in electricity charges, but across the country newly installed LED street lights are prompting complaints about public safety after dark.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) street lights are gradually taking over from the former sodium lights across Scotland, with the Scottish Futures Trust to the fore in assisting councils to install them.

The aim is to replace nearly 900,000 street lamps, which cost Scotland’s 32 local authorities a total of some £41 million annually in electricity charges and whose power sources generate the equivalent of 190,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

The trust estimates councils could save a total of £900m over 20 years if every current lamp was replaced with current LED technology.

Yet the new lights are proving to be less than popular in various places where they have already been installed by councils.

More than 400 people have signed a petition criticising the new lights being rolled out across Edinburgh. “The roads and pavements are inadequately illuminated, people do not feel safe after dark due to the lack of modern street lighting,” wrote petition organiser Marilyn Williams.

Dozens of residents have taken to Facebook to complain. “I had to buy a personal head torch for £15 so that I could actually see where I was going, due to the long dark areas between lamp posts,” wrote Gemma Riddles.

John Paul Gibb wrote: “Shocking, it’s like the old gas lights during the war! Pathetic, probably got a deal from Poundland for the LED lights, wouldn’t surprise me if they were stick-ons as well.”

Gillian Stamper added: “Had to use the light on my phone to get the key in the door! They are awful, very dangerous.”

Edinburgh City Council has since agreed to inspect those LED lights that have already been installed and make adjustments where necessary.

In Dumbarton, LED lights in one street failed to turn off during the day for a period of three months, “give or take a couple of days," one resident told The National yesterday.

Embarrassingly, McGregor Drive is only yards away from the main offices of West Dunbartonshire Council but it took “weeks and weeks,” according to the resident, for a worker to come and adjust the lights so that they switched off during daylight hours.

The resident added: “Not only that, but when the lights are on there’s far too much of a gap between them so it would be very easy for a burglar or a mugger to sneak between them.”

Elsewhere in Dumbarton, residents have spoken of using torches to walk in their local area after dark, and similar complaints about lack of safety have been made by people in Rutherglen,

Dundee was the first city in Scotland to install the lights, and councillors were inundated with complaints. Some residents alleging that the lights shone into their homes while others said they were too dim.

Glasgow City Council was the first local authority to take out a loan from the Edinburgh- based Green Investment Bank to finance its first programme of replacing 10,000 sodium laps with LED lights, which started last month. It has borrowed £63 million for the work.

At the time, council leader Gordon Matheson, who is also chairman of Sustainable Glasgow, said: “Glasgow is striving to become one of Europe’s most sustainable cities.

"We can achieve this by improving our energy efficiency, cutting our carbon emissions and generating financial savings for the city. Our deal with the Green Investment Bank is helping us get there.

“Street lighting is an essential service and so it makes sense to deliver it in a cost-effective way, which is exactly what we’ve been able to do here, while supporting Scotland and the UK to hit their climate-change reduction targets.”

Neither the Scottish Futures Trust nor any council that has installed the new LED lights has any plan to research their health effects – an issue that caused some local authorities in England to suspend their installation.

Scottish councils all say their new lights meet national standards, but a recent report by ANSES, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety, states that risks have been identified concerning the use of certain LED lamps, raising potential health concerns.

The report adds: “The issues of most concern identified by the Agency concern the eye due to the toxic effect of blue light and the risk of glare.”