Corby’s Danesholme estate will be ‘plunged into darkness’ when Northamptonshire County Council switch off streetlights in courtyards.
Angry opposition councillors at today’s (Thursday) Northamptonshire County Council meeting said that lights that had been operated by the authority for the past 40 years had not, in fact, ever been adopted so will now be switched off.
A motion by Councillor Bob Scott said that a review of adopted and unadopted roads had discovered that many courtyards on the Danesholme estate were not the responsibility of the county council.
Cllr Scott said: “This change in policy will have the effect of plunging communities into complete blackouts.
“Unadopted roads will be plunged into darkness.
“This is not a fair policy. Local residents expect a fair distribution of the benefit of their council tax.”
Councillor Mary Butcher said that members had only discovered the lights were to go out by accident, and they had received no official notification.
She said: “The council has suddenly decided after 40 years of maintaining the lights in this area that they haven’t adopted them.
“This has cause a lot of distress to residents who live there.
“We have a responsibility to make sure those residents feel safe when they’re walking in to their streets.”
The legal loophole will allow lights to be switched off in any areas that have never been officially adopted by the council, even if the council has traditionally maintained them. Streetlights in many areas of the county have been replaced during the past four years by private company Balfour Beatty under a private finance agreement.
And even though many of the lights on the Danesholme estate have been replaced under the scheme, they will now not be switched back on.
Cllr John McGhee has called for all councillors who live in areas that could be affected to join together to mount a legal challenge against the county council.
At today’s county hall meeting, Cllr Sally Beardsworth said: “The repercussions of this decision are absolutely massive. You can’t take away something that’s already been there. You’re opening up a massive can of worms for things to happen.”
The original motion was submitted by Cllr Bob Scott said: “This council notes that across the county there are a number of unadopted roads on which there are street lights that the council has historically maintained.
“Many of these lights have been replaced under the Street Lighting PFI Programme.
“We understand that a review of adopted and unadopted roads was also undertaken with other partners. This identified a number of unadopted highways and the council states that it no longer has the responsibly for providing street lighting on these.
Local residents are paying for lighting through their council tax and are understandably concerned that this change of policy will cause blackouts in their communities.
“This Council therefore resolves to maintain street lighting in areas it historically has.”
The motion was not carried forward despite cross-party support.
Cllr Michael Clarke accused the motion’s backers of ‘scaremongering.’