Frightened pensioners living in the Loughshore area have spoken of how they can’t go out after dark anymore due to lack of repairs being carried out on broken street lights in their area.
Sinn Fein Councillor Gavin Bell told the MAIL that he has been contacted by numerous older people living within Coagh Village, Drummullan and Ballinderry who are fearing having to leave their properties after dark.
One local resident from Churchview, Drummullan, explained, “During these dark mornings and evenings of winter, I’m afraid to go out of my property to leave my bin out for collection and fuel for the fire, because it’s too dark, the street lights are out and I’m afraid of falling.”
Another resident from Coagh Village said, “I’ve had my heating oil stolen recently and the street lights being out helped the culprits.”
Cllr Bell hit out at the DRD Minister’s policy on street lighting saying: “It’s quite unbelievable how, on one hand, there is a policy, instructed by the DRD Minister, not to repair street lighting, and on the other hand, there are double lamp posts and lights operating in some other areas. Where is the sense in this? How is this about saving expenditure? This policy is putting the health and safety of our constituents at risk and lead to injury claims.
“Does one hand really know what the other is doing? Does this, “If it’s broken, I won’t fix it,” policy serve our people well?”
A Department for Regional Development spokesperson said: “Following the announcement on June monitoring the Department is facing a significant budget shortfall. As part of a number of essential cost saving measures it has been necessary to suspend the use of external contractors for the repair of street lights that fail, unless they pose an electrical hazard to the public.
“It is not the case that no street lighting repairs will be carried out, the Department will continue to prioritise all reported faults.
“Until further notice, our in-house contractor will endeavour to deal with as many street lighting defects as possible. However, they will not be able to provide the service the public would expect in normal circumstances. Priority will be given to electrical and structural safety defects, followed by large groups of lights out. Smaller groups or individual street lights that fail will be lower priority and, unfortunately, many tens of thousands of street lighting defects may not be repaired over the winter months.”