Councillors from Derry and Strabane Council have said there was widespread frustration that lights in back alleys and laneways and are not being replaced or repaired due to budget constraints.
The council has now agreed to write to the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to voice the concerns of residents in estates across the city and district.
Many councillors said the problem had led to local people, particularly older and vulnerable people feeling unsafe.
The issue was raised at last week’s full council meeting by Alderman Maurice Devenney. He said there was a problem in the Baranailt Park area of Claudy and while the new LED lights were welcome, only the lights at the front were placed while nine lights along the back alley had been removed.
Proposing the council write to DfI seeking clarification and a meeting, he said there were concerns in various areas that this could lead to anti-social behaviour and rubbish dumping.
Mayor, Colr. John Boyle said: “this is an issue that concentrates the minds of many of our constituents across the city and district.”
UUP Ald. Mary Hamilton said there were also issues with lighting at the car park in Claudy, which she has previously raised with the council, which owns the facility.
SDLP Colr. Gus Hastings said that at the last meeting with DfI, councillors supported the installation of new lights but had also made it clear there would be a problem if they took the lights away from alleyways. He said councillors were told by officials it was not their responsibility to light-up alleyways. Given the sheer number of alleyways and mews lanes locally however, he said, “I think we need to get them back to address these concerns.”
Colr. Gary Donnelly said he had been dealing with similar issues in Glenowen, with one area beside a shop and a flight of steps to flats being in darkness, with young people congregating and someone who has already tripped. “For some people in the city these issues are already happening,” he said.
Colr. Darren O’Reilly said the council should ask for a map detailing the areas where lights had been taken away.
Sinn Fein Colr. Ruari McHugh said there had been very similar issues in Castlederg last year and said Road Service had been “very emphatic” that they were legally bound to light the carriageway and because of budget constraints they would be sticking to that. His party colleague Christopher Jackson said: “The removal of street lights causes a significant amount of distress, particularly to the elderly and vulnerable in our communities. We did have a meeting and I raised this particular issue and the response from Roads Service was they don’t light secondary routes.” He said that when he suggested the public should be consulted before the removal of street lights, he was told policy did not allow for that. “I don’t agree. It’s down to interpretation,” he said, adding that having looked at the policy, it may not be as restrictive as that which was being applied, and did not constitute a blanket ban.
DUP Ald. Hilary McClintock said that two years ago she had to bring in someone from council to actually install sensor lights at the back of a man’s property in the cityside. SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney said that there were similar issues in the Ballyarnett area and that they had to go to Teamworks to get lights put up.
Colr. Paul Gallagher proposed writing to party leaders who signed off on the budget as departments did not have the funding they needed, while Ind. Colr. Patsy Kelly said the council should request a report on the number of lights that are not working in different areas.
Ald. Devenney said there seemed to be an issue with finding parts to repair “the old orange lights.”
Responding to Colr. Gallagher, Sinn Fein Colr. Patricia Logue said that the party which holds the purse strings was the Tories at Westminster. “It is they who have diminished the block grant and it should be them that the letters should go to,” she said.
A meeting will now be arranged with DfI officials.