Balfour Beatty — lighting contract is not working that brilliantly

Has your street had new lighting yet?

We are in Phase II of the County Council streetlight replacement programme, the PFI which replaces all the lights in the county with new ones, in the interests of cutting energy costs by 50%. Phase II is going a bit better than Phase I, but I am hearing about lots of problems.

While the idea is excellent – new lights using half as much energy – it is being badly handled by the contractors, Balfour Beatty, to whom the Council has handed responsibility for communication and consultation with residents as well as implementing the programme. Plans of which lights are staying or going are highly technical and you need to look at them on line – not possible for everyone. Notice is short, while if you contact their Customer Services Department you get an auto-message promising an answer in ten working days – locking the door after the horse has bolted in many cases.

The contract was written a long time ago, and failed to take into account the needs of vulnerable people, the historic nature of our city, and had no ‘wiggle room’. The Tory councillor in charge of Highways infrastructure admitted yesterday, ‘If I had the opportunity to rewrite that contract, I would.’

I am concerned about one particular street in our area, where a light will be removed outside the home of someone with a disability – in a road which has had more than its fair share of burglaries. There are cracked pavements and removing the light could put the safety of disabled and elderly residents at risk.

Residents want to see the light retained or others repositioned so that it doesn’t leave such a big gap, but there is little room for flexibility.

And in Blinco Grove, one of the city’s 19th century streets, the elegant cast iron street lights are being replaced with modern ones as a safety measure. Residents value the distinctiveness of the old lights and believe that if they must be replaced, the new lights should be in keeping with the historic street. The lights are scheduled to be removed on Friday (21st Feb), which leaves no time for residents to respond to the consultation, especially as many families are on school half term.

I have asked for the removal to be delayed so people can be briefed on the need for replacement and give them time to identify funding for lights of a more traditional style.

Cambridgeshire County Council: making a start on yellow lines

Cambridgeshire County Council is the council responsible for parking management, and they manage the budgets and the authority for parking restrictions, residents’ parking schemes, and meters. So it is the Highways people at Shire Hall to whom we turn when we need help to sort out parking problems, not the Guildhall.

In response to local demand and campaigning, the County are at last about to advertise parking restrictions, or extensions of existing restrictions in a number of streets in Queen Edith’s:

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After a year of talking, the County Council unveils its Parking Plan

QUEEN EDITH CHAPEL THIS WEDNESDAY

Most residents of Queen Edith’s will know that parking is a big problem in this area. Lib Dem councillors have for many years been calling for action from Conservative-run Cambridgeshire County Council, the council responsible for parking management and highways.

Last summer the County agreed to set up a parking review group, to look at all of the south of the city, including Queen Edith’s, Trumpington, Romsey and some streets in Coleridge. Cllr Jean Swanson and I attended the first meetingabout a year ago, and since then Cllr Geoff Heathcock has represented Queen Edith’s on that group.

The County officers have visited twice, once to our South Area meeting at my request and again to meet residents in Queen Edith’s. It was made very clear that people were impatient with the long delays and looking for solutions soon.

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