‘We’re back in the dark ages’

Barry Chambers standing in Mickle Hill Road, Blackhall where the street lighting posts have had the lights removed
Barry Chambers standing in Mickle Hill Road, Blackhall where the street lighting posts have had the lights removed

A FORMER councillor has blasted a local authority after lighting was stripped from a country road.

Barry Chambers discovered light fittings have been removed from lamp-posts in Mickle Hill Road, between High Hesleden and the Coast Road at Blackhall Rocks.

Barry, 71, from Blackhall, says he fears it will leave vulnerable women open to being snatched on the dark roads.

But authority chiefs say the removal is part of a drive to make financial savings and reduce carbon emissions.

Barry said the lights were installed in 1978, when he was on the former Easington District Council, as more buses began to use the route.

He added: “I was coming down from Hesleden when I saw the lights had gone, I couldn’t believe it.

“There are people in High Hesleden who haven’t got cars and they are going to feel like they have had a curfew put on them – they are going to need torches.

“We are literally going back to the dark ages.”

Dad-of-two Barry, who was the last NUM secretary at Blackhall pit, and was married to the late Anne, said he feared lights could now be withdrawn from other East Durham roads.

Durham County Councillor for Blackhall Rob Crute wrote on his web blog that he and fellow councillor Lynn Pounder had made representations to the authority during consultation that lights should not be removed in their area.

Though acknowledging that the council has “been backed into a corner by severe Government budget cuts”, he said removing lights would be unsafe to walkers and motorists alike and that recent flooding on Mickle Hill Road had affected road safety.

Mark Readman, the county council’s highway services manager, said: “Street lights on Mickle Hill Road are being removed as part of our Street Lighting Energy Reduction Project.

“This is a major invest-to-save initiative to reduce carbon emissions and create significant financial savings.

“As well as the retrofitting of 41,000 street lights with new energy efficient LED lanterns it will also see the removal of up to 7,000 lights in areas where it is safe to remove them and where they are not required.

“Before deciding on whether to remove specific street lights, we carry out a full risk assessment and consult with the relevant local members and parish or town council.

“We only remove lights where, having considered all of the information available, we believe that it is safe to do so. We will not remove any lights from residential areas.”