Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Room for Negotiation on Croydon Street Lights

After several weeks of fruitless attempts at communication, Norbury residents in Oakhill Rd finally had a meeting on Thursday 18 July in the street with John Algar, the Council officer overseeing the street lighting replacement contract. Local Councillor Maggie Mansell supported the residents and attended the meeting.

As a result a redesign was agreed so that two of the new lamp posts scheduled to be by the boundary walls of four houses will be placed on the kerbside. Residents concerned with light infiltration to front rooms can ask for back guards to be fitted. This also applies to streets where new posts have already been installed. Algar says: ‘Residents can call the contractor Skanska at any time who will investigate any issues on and a case by case basis.  In addition, each road is surveyed after works are formally completed to gain feedback from residents.’

During the meeting Oakhill residents made it clear that while the contractor Skanska  will want to minimise expenditure and maximise its profits, it was the Council’s responsibility to ensure that residents concerns were addressed. At first Algar insisted that there was no obligation to consult and no room for change to the design.

Oakhill Rd is an unusual road. It only has houses on one side. Opposite the houses is a primary school’s green space. It is also a rat run road in both directions between Stanford and Croindene Rds. Because there are no parking restrictions a street where commuters and London Rd workers and visitors  park.

Residents have stressed that whatever the overall design approach being used there has to be flexibility to take account of special factors.

There are unresolved issues.

Light Effect on Birds. Because of the school’s grounds with gardens in Stanford and Croindene backing onto it, there is a greater number of birds which can disturbed by the light in Oakhill  thinking it is dawn and making a noise into the early hour - disturbing people’ sleep; a problem experienced elsewhere. Algar does not appear to be taking this issue seriously. He has simply responded: ‘The new lighting uses a white light which research has shown to have a low impact on Wildlife and much lower than the current orange lighting.’

Power Cuts. Algar explains that the existing street lights are powered by a dedicated system.  This is failing and the Council decided to decommission it as part of the renewal programme. He acknowledges that as a result  the street lighting go out in the event of a power failure in the street, along with power to people’s homes.  This of course will  leave a street in complete darkness. However,  he says that information is not available on how many localised power failures there have there been in Croydon is each of the last three years up to 31 March 2013.

Crime PreventionAnother unresolved issue is whether the new lighting posts will adequately lit the pavement running along the school ground. In the months when it gets dark earlier and light late, the light from across the road will create shadows and areas of poor illumination behind cars and vans parked on the school side of the road.  It is possible that this will make it easier for potential car thieves and robbers to operate in semi-dark on that side of the road. Algar insists that the light will be sufficient, and he has ignored a request to further consult crime prevention experts. He may of course be right, but we will not know for several months when dark sets in early.

What Have We Learnt?

1.    Residents with concerns about the replacement programme in their streets should not give up if they do not get satisfactory responses.
2.    They should persevere and insist on a meeting in the street so that particular problems can be discussed. 
3.    There is room for a flexible approach in order to meet particular concerns.
4.    Always keep your local Councillors informed, including copying them into emails.
5.    Keep up the pressure feeding any additional questions and concerns to Algar.

John Algar can be contacted at:

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