Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Creeting St Peter - a small but surprisingly bright light to relieve the darkness

Out here in the countryside, the provision of some of the things that others take for granted isn't always obvious, as I discovered when I first became a Parish Councillor. Who knew that a Parish Council might be responsible for its own street lights? And why, given the costs of installation, maintenance and power? After all, I pay my council tax to Suffolk County Council to light other people's streets, why don't they light mine?

It is, apparently, a historic thing, and there are plenty of villages like ours who decided to take the matter into their own hands in the past.

Ours had presented a challenge for a long time. Ageing, inefficient, hard to maintain, I had begun to wonder how we might replace them or, indeed, if we could even afford to. The Council had not made provision to do so, with no capital policy in place to, over a period of time, raise the necessary funds. In my capacity as portfolio holder for Finance (and it's not a title I sought, rather one I was presented with), I did at least make provision for an annual provision to fund the cost of replacement over twenty-five years. But, with an annual precept of £5,200, and plenty of ongoing costs, raising sufficient to cover the cost of replacement wasn't going to be quick or easy.

Ironically, the resignation of our Clerk last November offered a chink of light, and when, earlier this year, the County Council announced that, not only were they going to replace all of their street lights with new LED versions, but they would allow Parish Councils to hitch onto the contract, I leapt at the opportunity.

As a result, Creeting St Peter has nine new streetlights, which appeared one day without notice. When I saw them, my first thought was "they're a bit small, aren't they?" and they are, I admit pretty small. And, when they first sparked into light, as dusk fell, they didn't seem very impressive.

But wait a while, and the benefits of the new technology reveal themselves. The light they cast is strong, but very focussed on what lies beneath them, reducing light pollution and revealing a rather clearer night sky. Add to that the lower energy and maintenance costs, and I think that they'll pay their way over their lifetime - about twenty-five years. Which gives me time to raise the funds for their replacement...

When I moved a motion declaring our acknowledgment of the climate emergency, it would have been easy to see it as a meaningless gesture. What impact could a micro-parish like mine have? But every contribution helps, no matter how small, and my community of 275 or so has made a step towards reducing its impact upon the planet. That can only be a good thing.

I wonder if we can do something about the heating in the Church Room next?...

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