AN UPDATE FROM LOCAL CAMPAIGNER THOMAS PARKER
When I began knocking on doors in my ward of Wildridings & Central Bracknell, I spoke to over 300 residents and they were very clear that the new LED street lighting was an issue. It was not designed with the complexities of our estates in mind and it did not fit the mark. I heard lots of personal stories where elderly residents felt like they were scared to go out in the evening or had fallen down unlit staircases across the various parts of the estates. It’s just not good enough and what made it even worse was the Council originally refused to admit there was a problem, consistently ignoring residents demands and using irrelevant environmental arguments.
Not only were there residential concerns, but there were concerns from LED specialists with the design of the lampposts, which also did not consider our estates. This was a decision that was rushed through (at the cost of some ?7.3m of taxpayer funds) without there being proper scrutiny, testing and consideration from the Council’s so-called scrutiny committees.
Let me be clear, I support LED lighting as an environmentally friendly replacement to old Sodium based lighting. What I don’t support is lacklustre lighting that does not provide a safe environment for the members of our community.
Since I gave my speech in front of the Full Council at the meeting in April, they’ve been silently playing around with the lighting settings in the background in order to try and alleviate some of the concern. The most significant change however is that they’ve now admitted that there needs to be more work done on lighting, with the most recent meeting of the Environment, Culture & Communities Overview & Scrutiny Committee resulting in the creation of a LED Lighting Project Task & Finish Group. The Council’s own paperwork on this said that “Public Attitude to Change” was a reason for this and represented a significant risk to their project. To this I say congratulations to the 300 residents that I engaged with on the doorstep and the other residents I engaged with online. We got them to listen.
I still however have major concerns about whether the Council is actually going to seriously review and reconsider the approach taken with regards to Wildridings and Easthampstead. Many of the Councillors, such as Cllr Hill and Cllr Finch, have stated that the Council has “no obligations to light streets” and therefore this is not an issue. What an outrageous view on our local community. We pay our Council tax so that the local authority can provide a safe and secure environment and so that we can live in the best borough in this country. I am incandescent at the suggestion by these Councillors that we should aim for ticking off the bare minimum across our borough and I, along with the residents in Wildridings and Easthampstead, am demanding better from the local authority.
I will continue to fight this battle on behalf of residents because not only does it expose the weakness of the scrutiny and challenge in the Council, but it also exposes a culture whereby lessons are not being learned and the community is being firmly shut out of the process. As winter approaches, we will face the same issues we faced last year, and we must make our voices heard on this issue.