CONCERNS have been raised that Cookstown residents and motorists have been left squinting in the dark after a glaring disparity emerged in the amount of money spent on streetlighting in the Mid-Ulster area.
The town might have dazzled shoppers with its sparkling Christmas light display, but when it comes to streetlighting the district is one of the dimmest in Northern Ireland.
According to the latest figures released by the Department of Regional Development, £2 million has been spent on street lighting in the Cookstown District in the past five years, considerably less than the £3.5m lighting bill in neighbouring Dungannon, and the £2.9m bill in Magherafelt.
Last year, £412,000 was spent on streetlighting in Cookstown, with only the Moyle and Ballymoney districts spending less on lighting.
Outside of Belfast and Derry, Newtownabbey was the brightest with an annual spend of £1.4m.
SDLP Councillor Patsy McGlone, who requested the figures at the Northern Ireland Assembly, has called for more streetlighting in the Mid-Ulster area.
“There should be a push to ensure street lighting is energy-efficient, and that energy saving bulbs are used wherever possible”, he said.
“The knock-on cost savings this would bring would then allow for more investment in further street lighting in areas of particular need.”
Meanwhie, in the neighbouring Dungannon District, residents have complained about the ugly necklace of streetlights blazing along the new A4 dual carriageway.
McGlone’s party colleague, Councillor Anthony McGonnell, said the lights were a very necessary safety measure and claimed that the district was not overlit.
“The A4 dual carriageway is the best lit road in the country, with each of its junctions and approach roads lit up”, he said. “So I am not suprised we spend so much on lighting.
“The safety record of the road to date would show that these measures are working well and preventing fatalities, on what was once a very dangerous road.”
“In addition, we have a lot of villages that need to be lit up at night to deter crime and increase traffic safety. I would say that residents in the borough would want more street lighting rather than less, especially in small developments in rural areas.”