From the East Anglian Daily Times:
Police officers in Essex are unable to carry out their work as effectively with the street lights turned off. That appeared to be the message from Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston as he responded to questions from residents during a recent web chat.
Currently in Essex street lights run by County Hall are switched off between midnight and 5am except in town centres and at busy road junctions in a bid to cut carbon emissions and authority energy bills. It was announced this week that the lights will now be kept on for an extra hour six days a week, going off at 1am Tuesday-Sunday.
In a web chat with the Basildon Echo, asked if the policy had led to a rise in crime Mr Alston said an increase could not be confirmed and anti-social behaviour had fallen – which has been a central argument from Essex County Council (ECC) supporting the switch-off.
However Mr Alston did suggest the darkness hampered police activity in the early hours.
He said: “Essex Police is of course equipped to respond to emergencies in all circumstances but yes, when the lights are on it must be easier for them.
“Across most of the county, in all of our rural areas, the lights are off. This is really an issue about the areas around our town centres.
“Officers have told me it can be more difficult with the lights off but they will do what they are required to do to the best of their ability.”
Later expanding on his comments Mr Alston added: “It is obviously the case that police and other emergency services find it easier to operate in well-lit areas. However only a small proportion of the area of Essex has lighting. All the emergency services are well able to operate in unlit areas.”
The commissioner also raised concerns about the effect the switch-off could be having on the county’s roads during the web chat.
Mr Alston said: “I think there is a more tricky question about part-night lighting and road safety which has worried me since the beginning of 2013.
“There is growing evidence that part-night lighting can be a factor in some road accidents especially where we have speed limits of 40mph or above on roads close to nightspots where there may be pedestrians around in the early hours.”
He later added that around the country some coroners had raised concerns about part-night lighting, and there were two fatal crashes in Essex in which lighting could be a factor.
As a result Mr Alston has asked the Chief Constable and district commanders to identify roads where this may apply and ask for them to be lit….
Full article here
The District Council’s Review Committee met on Wednesday evening. It’s a bit like a House of Commons Select Committee , it’s there to scrutinise what the council does, and to review things.
The biggest item on Wednesday was to discuss homelessness in our district, and a representative from Rochford Housing Association, plus Cllr Jo Mcpherson (the council’s Portfolio Holder on the subject) were there to answer questions. It was a good meeting where people from 4 political groups worked together. Councillors duly asked lots of questions, though we probably really only scratched the surface, and need to learn more.
What came to mind was that we have , in Jo Mcpherson, a councillor who is really engrossed in her area of responsibility, and wants to communicate with other councillors. We also have councillors who want to learn more. In the ‘good old days’ of the committee system this could happen much more easily. We had a Health and Housing Committee where councillors could learn as they spent years on the committee steadily gaining knowledge….
Another topic was car parking charges. Usage of council car parks has gone up despite the increase in charges last year. Cllr Toby Mountain suggested the council could be a bit more generous now, by for example, stopping charging at 6 pm rather than at 7. Cllr Chris Black backed that and said we could also support traders by adding two more free Saturday mornings to the calendar – the first two Saturdays after Christmas. This would help with the trader’s winter sales. Both these ideas were supported by other members, and we expect some further discussion on this in order to get them agreed by council.
Three issues in Downhall Park Way:
First of all, someone has suggested having yellow lines at the junction of Downhall Park Way with Rawreth Lane. These would be standard ‘junction protection’ lines simply to stop motorists parking too close to the junction. Any thoughts about that?
A second person has expressed their concern about the high speeds of a small number of cars in Downhall Park Way. We might be able to get temporary signs that flash when drivers exceed the limit. Again, do people have any thoughts about that?
Thirdly, we have asked County Highways to repaint the Give Way lines at the junctions of Downhall Park Way and Harberts Way.
Ron and Chris were contacted a little while back by a resident regarding parking in Teignmouth Drive , Rayleigh. The issue is the amount of on-street parking near the junction with Down Hall Road, and the resident asked for the yellow lines at the junction (which Chris arranged in about 1988) to extend a little further down.
Ron raised this with the “South Essex Parking Partnership” who are a consortium of local councils, but its’ been rejected. Their latest response said:
Meanwhile , separate from this, County Highways are going to be doing a speed check in Teignmouth Drive and Exmouth Drive to see if a speed limit of 20 mph is appropriate here, bearing in mind this is near a school. The limit can only be introduced if the average speed in the survey is below 25 mph.
Any thoughts from our residents on either ideas?
According to the RAC, Essex County Council still has the second highest figure in England of legal claims against it for damage cause by potholes ! You can download their data here. Only Surrey County Council had more claims. In the financial year 2013-2014 there were 2548 claims, totally over £156,000. But the County Council only paid out on 98 of them.
One of our onlineFOCUS readers informed us about a hole in the pavement in Down Hall Road (thank you, you know who you are!). It was caused by a badly broken Essex Water Company cover, leaving a hole nasty enough for someone to trip over , or maybe sprain an ankle, especially in the dark.
We reported it to Essex and Suffolk Water, who fixed it in about 2 days. That’s not all, their customer service people even phoned back to check everything was OK now.
Perhaps County Highways could learn from them.
It was reasonably lively but without any bad temper. Here’s a few points:
Council Chairman June Lumley was admirably frugal tonight. Most Council Chairman request a buffet with wine for councillors on the night of the December meeting. June didn’t do this, but did arrange refreshments to the public who attended the Civic Carol Service on Sunday, which raised about £245 for charity.
Green Party Leader Michael Hoy made the best point of the evening. The decision to offer free parking on 3 Saturday afternoons before Christmas was taken as “an urgent item” which couldn’t be challenged. Michael asked why the decision was taken so late in the year that it had to be an urgent item. “Didn’t the Council know Christmas was coming?” The answer given was that the council didn’t know it could afford this until quite late in the year. John Mason and Chris Black followed this up later with some forensic questioning , which revealed that the council knew in June it had about £60,000 available – the cost of 3 free Saturday afternoons was about £9,000. Chris Black asked for an earlier decision next year, which might allow an extra free afternoon, either earlier in December or just after Xmas.
UKIP leader John Hayter had a go at the adoption of the “Development Management Plan”: This is basically a new version of the council’s “Bible” of planning policies. Not the zoning of land for development, but all the other policies. Things like the design of new developments, housing density, infilling of gardens, phone masts, what is allowed in the Green Belt, green tourism, playing pitches and other leisure and recreational uses…. John criticised the document because of all the new development proposed in the district, but John Mason, Chris Black, and Michael Hoy pointed out that he was criticising the wrong document for that.
The Tories best part of the night was a report showing that the council’s financial situation was improving.
Ron Oatham made it clear his opinion of central government when John Mason asked whether a certain financial amount “was being lost back to central government, or worse?” Ron immediately called out “Could anything BE worse?”
Chris Black asked how many planning enforcement cases were currently ongoing – the answer was 362, just four less than last year. He asked what could be done to reduce this figure quicker, and was told they would soon have three members of staff again, instead of the current two.
Essex County Council today rejected a bid to allocate funding for low-energy streetlights. At a meeting of the full council, the Liberal Democrat Group moved a motion calling on the council to allocate funds for LED roll-out in next year’s budget.
Moving the motion, Cllr Stephen Robinson (Chelmsford North) pointed out that the Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government have created the Green Investment Bank (GIB) to help the UK economy become greener and stronger.
Cllr Robinson said, “The GIB has £3.8 billion to support the roll-out of projects like low-energy LED streetlights. I am disappointed that the Conservative majority on the council would not agree to a plan for a roll-out of LED lights.
“Moving to LED lights would save Essex taxpayers MORE money than switching off most streetlights during the night.
“I am especially puzzled that they are willing to spend £1 million on a pilot of LED lights but will not set aside any money to take the pilot forwards if it is successful.”
Seconding the motion, Cllr David Kendall (Brentwood South) pointed to figures from the Police in Brentwood, showing that crime has risen during the “lights off” period. Cllr Kendall also pointed out that the AA are now saying that lights should be left on in roads where the speed limit is 40mph or higher, because of the dangers to pedestrians.
Councillors were also concerned that the £1 million for the pilot is being taken away from the budgets of the Local Highways Panel.
The Gov.uk has an interactive map of the coalition’s proposed road improvements – you can find it here.
The two projects closest to us are:
The M25 is scheduled to be 4 lanes throughout by the end of this year….
From the Echo today:
THE DARTFORD Crossing will be closed overnight this weekend.
On Saturday night the northbound tunnels will be closed and on Sunday night the QEII bridge will be fully closed, with signed diversions in place via the Blackwall Tunnel.
Dart Charge project director Nigel Gray said: “This weekend will see the start of massive changes at the Dartford Crossing and by Monday morning we will have southbound traffic able to use the Crossing barrier-free.
“We will be closing the Crossing overnight, in one direction at a time, to minimise the disruption while we change the road layout. I advise drivers to plan ahead and allow extra time for their journeys.”
Erwan Huerre of Connect Plus which is carrying out the work, said: “Road users will see the benefit on southbound journeys early on, however work on the northbound carriageway, approaching the Dartford Tunnels, will take longer to complete.
“In the short term, road users will still need to drive through the old payment plaza, which will remain temporarily to manage traffic flows and maintain safety in the tunnels.
“The main works are due to be completed by spring 2015, which is when the full benefits of Dart Charge will be felt.”
The Crossing will be closed, between junction 2 (for the A2) and junction 31 (for the A1306), to northbound traffic between 11.30pm on Saturday 29 and 6am in the morning of Sunday 30 November.
It will then be closed to southbound traffic between 11.30pm on Sunday 30 November and 5.30am in the morning of Monday 1 December.
A diversion route will be in place via the A2, A102 Blackwall Tunnel and A13.
The Blackwall tunnel has a height restriction of 4m northbound, 4.7m southbound and is classed as ‘ADR Category E’ for hazardous goods.
Any vehicles above these height restrictions or carrying dangerous goods will be diverted via the western section of the M25
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