FERMANAGH could be ‘left in the dark’ this winter – with cuts to Roads Service budget leaving broken or ‘burning out’ street lights in danger of not be repaired as we hit darker evenings.
The news comes as both residents and elected representatives have reported street lights in the county as no longer working.
Due to a budget deficit, the Department for Regional Development said that while it isn’t the case that ‘no street lighting repairs will be carried out’, ‘smaller groups or individual street lights that fail will be lower priority’.
This could spell bad news for residential and rural areas – and has left a local councillor commenting: ‘It is cheaper to fix bulbs rather than have to fix fractures or worse’.
Sinn Fein Councillor Anthony Feely told the Fermanagh Herald that he had been contacted by ‘numerous’ residents in the west of the county, specifically Garrison, Derrygonnelly and Belcoo reporting faults.
He said: “I have been approached by numerous locals complaining about broken street lights around their homes and on the town boundaries.
“In terms of young children or senior citizens, this lack of street lighting is likely to result in an increased number of falls with expensive, painful stays in hospital for some of the most vulnerable in our community.”
Cllr Feely added that lack of street lighting can also increase the likelihood of anti-social behaviour.
He added: “I would urge the DRD Minister Danny Kennedy to re-think his budget.”
An Enniskillen resident is already counting the cost of the no streetlights.
The man, who lives in a residential area on the Sligo Road, said that both he and his wife’s number plates had been stolen – and queried if the broken street light beside his house were to blame.
He said: “We were wondering how it happened and I was taking to a neighbour who said ‘You do know your side of the street is covered in darkness?’”
The resident said that after speaking with the police, he was advised to contact Roads Service who, he said, told them of the effect of the budget deficit.
“We have one right outside the house and coming in to the winter months, we’ve a young child and our neighbours do too. It could start at number plates, I dread to think where it could go from there,” he added.
The Department for Regional Development, who reported a ‘significant budget shortfall’ back in June said that because of ‘essential cost saving measures’, and that ‘it has been necessary to suspend the use of external contractors for the repair of street lights that fail, unless they pose an electrical or structural hazard to the public’.
Instead, they will be using their ‘in-house contractor’ and the department said that priority will be given to electrical and structural safety defects, followed by large groups of lights either out or burning.
A spokesman added: ‘Smaller groups or individual street lights that fail will be lower priority’.
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