Street light replacement costs are a headache

PUBLISHED: 17:38 22 September 2015 | UPDATED: 17:38 22 September 2015

With reference to your article about the replacement of parish street lights and the £250,000 grant being offered by Fenland District Council, I would like you to understand the problem, from a parish council's point of view.

In Doddington, our street lights are owned variously by Cambridgeshire County Council, Fenland District Council and the Parish Council.

Approximately two years ago Fenland District Council undertook a review of all street lights within their area, as indeed did Cambridgeshire County Council.

This involved Balfour Beatty, surveying all lights, including those owned by the parish councils.

This was undertaken without the prior permission or even the knowledge of the parish councils. Letters were then sent out from FDC to all parishes advising them of the classification of their lights, and giving time limits for the replacement of various categories. These varied from immediate to five years.

Alarm bells rang in all parishes within Fenland’s district, as many of us did not hold reserves to enable us to pay for the replacement, and FDC were contacted to advise them of our situation.

FDC then managed a wholly inadequate attempt to hold meetings with the parishes, and gave out often contradictory data with regard to the classification of the lights.

The parishes also have a problem with the unethical situation where Balfour Beatty were asked to survey the stock with an understanding that they would also be contracted to replace them.

As you can imagine, for parishes like Doddington, who own 75 street lights, this came as a body blow, as we realised that we did not have the reserves to pay for the replacement of these lights, nor any time to accrue the reserves needed.

FDC have since offered a grant of £250,000 to pay for the replacement of the lights needing immediate replacement.

This amounts to 10 lights in Doddington and the remains of the grant, after these lights have been replaced, some £40,000 will be split between the parishes to help towards paying for the second category of parish council owned lights.

This sounds like a very magnanimous offer until you discover that of the circa £56,000 needed in Doddington to complete the replacement of the second category of lights within three years, our share amounts to £7,500.

Also, the last category of lights, which have a five year replacement timetable, have not yet been included in this expenditure.

As parish councils, we now have the problem of trying to find the additional money needed to acquiesce to FDC’s demands.

The reduction and possible withdrawal of concurrent grants has given us an additional headache, and all this when we are striving to make sure that the parishes are not forgotten in the rush to improve the towns in our area.

As usual, we feel like second class citizens.

RUTH HUFTON

Chairman, Doddington Parish Council

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