The future of the LED lights scheme in Portadown seems cast in as many shadows as the town’s streets.
There’s no sign of any U-turn on the controversial scheme which has just passed its halfway stage.
According to figures 8,000 lights have been replaced across the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area, with around 7,000 left to go in the £3 million switchover.
This week the Portadown Times asked the DRD two key questions: 1, Have you received many complaints and what action is being taken? 2, As a pilot scheme, what happens in this area and other areas, if it is found to be unsuccessful?
Instead of answers to those questions we received a statement which left us feeling very much in the dark.
UKIP Councillor David Jones has also been less than impressed, “The results of the scheme where it has been in action so far are disgraceful. We have received a great number of complaints, perhaps the highest number ever on any issue; but despite contact with the Lighting Division - nothing has changed.
“A request to come and speak to the ABC Council has so far not taken place.
“They have said in some instances the poles need readjusted or other work needs carried out. They have even commented the new lights will just take time to get used to.
“Amongst the complaints we have received, one was from a visually impaired gentleman who now is unable to leave his house in the dark for fear of falling down and injuring himself (or worse).
“The general complaint is that the new lights in their present state do not defuse the light to the surrounding areas. Concern is expressed at danger of falling, tripping on uneven footpaths.”
He said concerns had also been expressed that dark areas could be used to assist house breakers and burglaries - indeed in Dollingstown concern had been so great that street patrols were set up at Christmas.
Mr Jones added, “At UKIP we understand these LED lights are more environmentally friendly and cost less to run. We feel obliged to ask where will be the money savings if poles have to be altered or new ones fitted?
“Was a proper survey carried out prior to the introduction of the scheme and if so why were these problem not discovered? As the scheme continues unabated, when will these alterations be carried out? We are concerned the Craigavon area will be left with a street lighting system not fit for purpose and in fact potentially dangerous.”
These too were questions we put to the DRD. In response we received the following.
A spokesperson for DRD said, “The Department is seeking to make best use of new technologies such as LED street lighting, which greatly reduce energy and maintenance costs. The pilot project in the Banbridge and Craigavon areas aims to light roads and footways to appropriate lighting levels.
“It is characteristic of LED street lights to provide very good control of light distribution onto the road surface and have noticeably less light spilling into the surrounding environment. This is efficient from a road lighting perspective and helps to reduce unwanted light pollution.
“DRD is aware that each time new types of street lighting have been introduced over the last 40 years, there usually are concerns expressed initially until the public becomes used to the new lighting systems.
“The change to LED street lighting is currently happening all over the world. In future, most street lighting will be LED, and the older orange lights will become obsolete as manufacturers move to the new energy efficient and long life LED alternatives.
“Any complaints received by the Department about the new LED lights will be assessed and, where appropriate, reasonable adjustments will be made to try to address the issues raised.”