Pedestrian lights in the spotlight in ancient town

29/8/12- Street lighting in Winchelsea.
29/8/12- Street lighting in Winchelsea.

I refer to your article (17 August) on the poll to be undertaken by Icklesham Parish Council(IPC) about turning off the footlights in Winchelsea Town.

This will be the third consultation IPC has conducted on this issue but it hasn’t liked the results so far and so is trying again.

The first consultation was in the form of a questionnaire sent by the parish clerk to all households in the town. 24 per cent of households responded, with two thirds in favour of saving money by switching the lights off after midnight.

However, the losing side were not happy and made malicious and unsubstantiated attacks implying that Winchelsea councillors tampered with responses. Indeed, one of the leading campaigners for the lights to stay on all night made a Freedom of Information request demanding to see everyone’s responses.

At first the council was minded to allow this and suggested that he visit the clerk to go through the forms, but following advice from Rother, that offer was withdrawn and the request rejected.

The second consultation was at the Annual Parish Assembly, where again the vote was a clear majority in favour of switching off, but again the council decided this was not what they wanted to hear and so they have arranged a third consultation. However , this time they have disenfranchised a sizeable section of the Winchelsea electorate. Only those who were able to get to the Court Hall in Winchelsea on Thursday 30th August between 4pm and 9pm would have their views heard. Anyone who is housebound will not be heard. Anyone who is on holiday (the poll was held in August in the middle of the school holidays) will not be heard.

Anyone who is a weekend/parttime resident (a quarter of the population) not in the town on Thursday will not be heard. Anyone whose work shifts mean they are not in the town between 4 and 9 will not be heard. A cynic could be forgiven for thinking the council appear to feel they stand a better chance of getting the “correct” answer if they gerrymander the electorate. It should also be pointed out that the Parish clerks who will be manning the ballot boxes do not have access to the electoral roll and so have no way of verifying whether or not someone is a registered voter and therefore entitled to cast a vote.

The council has got themselves into this mess because of their refusal to accept the original consultation. They have put forward excuses such as claiming the response rate was not high enough, yet their own Local Plan which is used as the basis for decisions to spend money, is based on response rates of 9 per cent, 11 per cent and 13 per cent in Rye Harbour, Icklesham and Winchelsea Beach but a 24% response rate in Winchelsea is not valid to make a decision to save money!

This whole saga encapsulates what is wrong with IPC. Decisions are made not on a democratic , transparent basis but are decided on personal like or dislike and personal favours.

Name and address supplied