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"It's going to take for someone to be hurt": Street lighting problems around Ireland

Chambers Park in Kilcock isn’t the only estate to run into problems with public lighting. Here are your stories.

LAST THURSDAY, THE street lights in Chambers Park in Kilcock were switched on, exactly a week after they were turned off to the surprise of the unfinished housing estate’s residents.

If this seems unusual in itself, the reasons behind why they switched off were unprecedented: there was no one willing to pay the bill.

It soon emerged that the payment of the street lighting bill wasn’t just an issue in Chambers Park. Two more Kildare housing estates received letters from Electric Ireland telling them their lights could be switched off by ESB Networks due to billing issues.

The day the Chambers Park lights were switched back on, the Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, had some words for Electric Ireland.

He might, he said, have to take action to remind the semi-state company of its ‘social responsibility’. What started as an issue for one small housing estate had crept onto the national agenda.

As TheJournal.ie found, street lighting is also an issue for people in many other areas around Ireland – even if they live in finished estates or without developers in trouble.

Here are some of the stories readers told us.

imageChambers Park Pic: Pat McGarry

Co Kildare: “Shocked, surprised, and unhappy”

Chambers Park wasn’t the only Kildare housing estate to receive a letter about their public lighting possibly being switched off.

As James Comerford from Abbeyfield in Balitore explained, they also got a letter from Electric Ireland.

We got a bill from Electic Ireland asking us would we like to pay the bill as the current bill payer had refused to pay.

This housing estate is finished, but the developer is in receivership. In the end, the receiver agreed to pay the bill.

Comerford said that his fellow residents were shocked, surprised and unhappy when the issue first arose during a scheduled residents’ meeting the week before last. The letter had been sent to the committee, but there had been a delay in it arriving due to how it was addressed.

Comerford said he believes Electric Ireland may have taken this approach in Co Kildare to see “how it would go”.

He said that Kildare County Council said they weren’t going to take over the electricity bill because they hadn’t taken the estate in charge.

Throughout the county many estates are unfinished and the council still haven’t taken them in charge. No one is making demands for street lights in those.

Co Cavan: “It’s going to take for someone to be hurt”

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Jess lives in a small estate of just 12 houses in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, called Killfinla Heights.

She bought her house in 2005. At that time, and for the next three – four years, the small estate had street lighting. “As far as I am aware the estate is ‘finished’,” she said.

[Where I live] it is pitch black. I paid my household charge and I paid my property tax last year. I haven’t paid this year’s as I’m so annoyed over our lighting situation.

Of the switch-off, she said “we didn’t know – we had them one day and [then] they were gone. We weren’t told anything.”

After contacting the council, she says they were told that Killfinla Heights is not classed as an estate because there are not enough houses.

She said a fellow resident was also told that a residents committee should be set up and that two committee members should organise bank payments of €80 per annum, per household, for the bill to keep the lights on.

It’s absolutely pitch dark – I can’t even see with the lights of the car to get out on the road. There are lots of small children [here] and other children old enough to be out.

She believes “it’s going to take for someone to be hurt” before something is done. Her own daughters won’t walk up the road on their own due to the darkness.

Currently, there is no residents committee and no spokesperson for the estate.

Co Cork: “I covered the holes near our house with concrete blocks.”

Oisín is a resident of Wayside Park, a small estate adjoining another estate Clonakilty, Co Cork. All photos below are taken by him of the estate in the dark.
I bought the house new approx five years ago. There were holes in the ground then outside each house but I was assured by the estate agent that the lamps would be installed ASAP.
The street lighting was installed by Airtricity approximately 1.5 years ago. I asked the workers putting them up are they going to be switched on now, they said it would be around two weeks.
image
They never got switched on. We have never had street lighting in our estate in the last 5 years of its entire existence.
The holes for the street lamps were very dangerous and were a hazard coming back to the house in the pitch dark if you didn’t have a torch or for children playing outside.
I covered the holes near our house with concrete blocks.
image
The estate we are in is “finished” and there are other grievances with that but the only one  I’m worried about is the lighting situation.
I have paid my household charge and my property tax for this “finished” estate and am lost to what I can do to get lighting in the estate for the safety and security of all living there.

Waterford: “It’ll always be on the verge, always not completely feel like a home.”

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The resident of a ghost estate in Waterford explained their situation:

I live in a small ghost estate. 12 of the 22 houses are finished and occupied. It’s an L-shaped estate so one leg of the L, so to speak, is finished so the unfinished section is separate from the occupied part. Unfortunately the unfinished part is the part that faces onto the main road so our estate looks like a building site from the outside. Taxi drivers, delivery men, etc, always have problems finding us because they assume that no one lives here.

It is completely dark here at night. I’ve often found empty naggins and cans on the green area when I’m walking my dogs in the morning. It’s such a shame because the half of the estate that’s finished is so nice and the unfinished houses are externally complete, they’re just unfinished inside.

The estate is so close to being finished but it looks like it never will be, it’ll always be on the verge, always not completely feel like a home.

We moved in in Spring 2010, the builder declared bankruptcy soon after. The entrance to the estate was never finished as half the area was still a building site and the unfinished houses were left without doors and unsecured in any way. Sometime in late 2011 the builder put up some fences blocking off the unfinished section of the estate. We often used to see teenagers coming and going from the furthest unfinished house. Our three street lights.

The estate is close to the border between two southern counties. We’re technically in one but for all intents and purposes we live in the second. The area has been historically under-served by our official council as a result.

Our estate was exempt from the household charge but in August 2012 the council put up a notice saying that the estate had been taken in charge and a number of things were done after that.

The unfinished houses were boarded up, a permanent fence was installed separating the finished and unfinished sections of the estate, the unfinished section was cleared of debris, the entrance and road were properly surfaced and finished, footpaths and grass leading into the estate were installed. The street lights were not fixed.

We then found out that we were now eligible for the property tax. The council came out again before Christmas and dug up the entrance to prepare the water pipes for water charges. The areas of road that they dug up are now sinking.

I contacted the council in August 2013 to ask them about the street lights. They told me that Airtricity were responsible for the lighting so I contacted Airtricity. They told me that they had been contacted by the council to install two new lights but had no record of the three existing ones.

The poles for the two new lights were installed last month but not the actual lights. The original three lights still don’t work. stopped working in summer 2010. We didn’t know who was responsible for the estate so didn’t know who to go to to get them fixed.

Had similar issues, or want to share your story? Comment below or email aoife@thejournal.ie

Read: “The situation hasn’t been resolved”: Fears lights could be turned off in more estates>

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