Into the dark ages
South Cambridgeshire District Council will switch off and remove all the lighting it operates across 83 villages unless parish councils can find the means to pay for them themselves. They will be switched off and taken down by April 1 because the distri
South Cambridgeshire District Council will switch off and remove all the lighting it operates across 83 villages - unless parish councils can find the means to pay for them themselves. They will be switched off and taken down by April 1 because the district council cannot afford to fund them anymore, following massive budget cuts of £2.6million. But some parish councils are now fighting back. Councillors at Guilden Morden Parish Council are inviting residents to go along to their next meeting to discuss the issue and cost of the parish paying for the 32 lights themselves. The parish council said: "This decision has had serious ramifications for our village where a large number of the lights are financed by South Cambridgeshire District Council, about 50 per cent. "For this reason, the council will hold a public meeting where we will set the likely cost burden on the village and develop a strategic plan and our response to the district council. "It is all the footpath lights that are under threat." In Bassingbourn, the parish council plan to review the situation regarding their 75 affected lights. Chairman Jack White said: "We're going to have a good hard look at it, but there's a limit as to how much you can take on. "We're rather amazed that they could put all these lights in and then can't afford to fund them." Meldreth parish council clerk, Pauline Penfold, said: "We are going to wait until we've had further information from Cambridge Association of Local Council's (CALC) before we decide anything. "It's been estimated that it'll cost us £1,400 a year to run the lights." A spokesman from South Cambridgeshire District Council said: "As a result of government capping, South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) has had its budget cut by almost a fifth in 2005/06. A fundamental review has been carried out across all services to find savings and it has been decided, regrettably, to withdraw funding for footway lighting, currently running at £66,000 a year. "SCDC has been in discussion with the County Council about transferring maintenance and power responsibility for all footway lights to them but this will not be possible. The County Council is, however, considering taking over the running of some lights that meet their streetlight adoption criteria, and a survey is underway to identify these lights. "The survey has so far identified approximately 260 lights across the District that could be taken over by the County Council and discussions are continuing. "SCDC has also approached Parish Councils who, as lighting authorities themselves, can also take over the running of the remaining footway lights. Parish Councils would then be able to enter into individual arrangements with the County Council for maintenance and power. The estimated annual cost per light to each parish would be £17.32 for maintenance and £15.35 for power. "SCDC has contacted all affected Parish Councils asking whether they would take over funding the footway lights in their parish and giving information about the possible Parish Council/County Council arrangements. If Parish Councils choose not to take over the footway lights SCDC will be faced with having to mothball the lights. This will mean that the lights will be switched off from 1 April 2006 and eventually removed." About 1,800 lights would be affected across the district. The county council is currently considering taking over the running of about 260 lights which meet its streetlight adoption criteria, and a survey is under way to identify these lights. n Guilden Morden's public meeting will be held on February 20 at 7pm in the village hall.