*Ballycannon Heights in Meelick is among the locations impacted. Photograph: Natasha Barton
LIGHTS are out in a number of housing estates across the county as a result of new compliance measures between ESB and Safe Electric when it comes to undertaking upgrades.
Housing estates in Ennis, Meelick, Miltown Malbay, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Westbury are among the locations impacted in recent weeks with no public lighting and what have been acknowledged as “significant delays” in scheduled upgrades.
Cllr Mary Howard (FG) flagged the matter by calling on Clare County Council “to urgently liaise with both the ESB and Safe Electric with a view to resolving public lighting and cabling issues within housing estates across the county”.
Senior engineer in the roads and transportation section of the Council, John Leahy explained, “repair times of some public lighting faults will take longer than previously experienced due to additional works that are mandatory to ensure compliance with the ESB’s public lighting requirements and Safe Electric’s standards. The public lighting is forty to fifty years old in many of these housing estates. These requirements address potential electrical legacy safety issues and ESB attendance at these repair locations is required”.
Leahy confirmed that the Council is meeting with ESB locally with engagements also ongoing nationally on the provision of “adequate ESB resources to accelerate repair times and address the current backlog of works”.
Anne O’Sullivan, an acting senior executive engineer with the Council acknowledged the “significant delays to the return of supplies, it is regrettable and taking longer than it should be”. She said they have met ESB staff in person with a view to arranging for additional resources. “We will continue to work with ESB and escalate the issue, we’ve made them very much aware of our dissatisfaction with ESB attending our sites”.
Speaking at the September sitting of the Council, Cllr Howard highlighted, “In recent weeks we’ve had estates in complete darkness”. She said that current protocol requires the ESB to visit the site due for upgrades on two separate occasions, first to turn off the power and again to reconnect, the time between each visit is causing the delay. She believed the matter was a health and safety issues both for the public and ESB’s contractors.
Sentiments from Leahy were not strong enough, Cllr Shane Talty (FF) maintained. “What was once a simple call out is now a three-part drama, they’ve changed safety protocol and nobody will stand over what is there, it is leaving more estates in the dark and leaving people vulnerable in their homes, there a number of houses where there is dead lights outside the door”. One estate in Miltown Malbay has had the lights gone since January, he claimed.
Blocks of lights are out, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) agreed while expressing the view that a new tendering process which has been won by a different company has led to the need for more works.
Time is ticking with the evening’s getting shorter, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) commented. “The Council should have known this was coming with the transition to LED energy. The cut off happens in the estate to fit the new boxes and the length of time it takes to reconnect has left the public very concerned as we’re heading into the winter”.
Within South Clare, the problem is lasting from four to five weeks where lights are “knocked off” depending on the size of the estate, according to Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF). Urgency is lacking, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) argued while pointing out that Ballycannon Heights in Meelick has been without public lighting for twelve weeks. Echoing this, Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF) said it was “disappointing that we’ve come to a stage where the lights are not working, it needs a matter of urgency because we are coming into the winter months”.
Presence of a strategic plan for the issue was sought by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND). “Is there a plan in place, it isn’t as simple as it used to be, does this come out of our Budget because if it does it will have a huge impact”. Cllr Michael Begley (IND) admitted to being “confused”. He stressed, “there must be a distinction between recently fitted out estates and ones that are forty or fifty years old”.
An estate in Newmarket-on-Fergus where the “majority of residents are retired” is impacted and “they have serious worries,” Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) flagged. Mayor of Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) stated that in older estates the “lights have been out for a number of months”.
Acting Director of Service, Siobhán McNulty advised the meeting, “the issue isn’t the replacing of the heads, it is the decoupling of the supply which is the where the regulation has changed”. She assured elected representatives, “we are working very closely with ESB”.