Hi-tech Dark Sky lights on the way

New Dark Sky Park street lighting is being installed across the region to both control light pollution and save money.

This was the news from Keith Muir, the Forestry Commission’s head of tourism and recreation in Galloway, at this week’s meeting of Cree Valley Community Council.

He said the carbon reduction team at Dumfries and Galloway Council was busy replacing all the bulbs on street lights in every town and village in the region. The new LED lights, which have already been installed in some areas of Newton Stewart, have a life span of 60,000 hours as opposed to 6000 hours for the current ones. Much of the savings will come from the fact that the LED light were, said Mr Muir, “more robust and reliable” and so would require less maintenance.

He said; “If a street light is faulty here someone has to come all the way from Dumfries to fix it. That costs a lot of money.”

The new lights will give off a white glow rather than orange and will face downwards. For places at the top of hills, such as Wigtown, lights can be fitted with shields so the light is not visible from afar.

The next job is tackling domestic lighting as anyone living in the Dark Sky Park area will have to adhere to new legislation regarding lights on homes to ensure that are Dark Sky Park-friendly, said the Forestry boss.

Members of the Cree Valley Community Council were encouraged to attend the upcoming Wigtown Area Committee meeting on heath and heath related issues to clarify the situation over the X-ray service locally. The meeting heard vice-chairman Bob Boan say he had heard X-rays taken at the Galloway Community Hospital in Stranraer could “lie for a week to 10 days” before someone from Dumfries analysed them. But other members gave examples of X-ray results being available in Stranraer within hours.

Toby covers reported missing in Newton Stewart by the CVCC to Scottish Water led to the utility getting a D minus for geography.

CVCC secretary Morag McIlwraith told Monday night meeting that Scottish Water were on there way to replace the missing covers and had asked for a postcode. She later got a call from a Scottish Water employee who was looking for missing toby covers in Church Street, Kirkcowan instead of Church Street, Newton Stewart!

Councillor Geddes said he was exasperated at the conduct of the utility, citing the case of the community councillors in Whithorn who were asked by Scottish Water to walk round the town and report back a list of what needed done.

“Take this up with your MSP”, said the elected member, “this is not acceptable.”

Cree Valley Community Council Secretary Morag McIlwraith has been instructed by the members to write to the Wigtown Licensing Board stating that an application for a licence to sell alcohol lodged by a petrol station in the town “might lead to over-provision.”

The 60ft whale that was buried on the beach at Carsluith is in danger of becoming a health hazard, said CVCC member Tom Greenaway.

He said the whale, which was discovered on the beach on February 17, was buried by the council in a “very shallow” grave in the sand. It was now “blowing up” with gasses as it decomposed and was in danger of reappearing.

When contacted by The Galloway Gazette, a spokesperson for Dumfries and Galloway Council said the problem had already been dealt with.

She said: “The whale did resurface and was reburied near the high water mark on May 3. There is no heath risk to the general public.”

There is no council money available to repair the path from the Douglas Ewart High School to Ewart Drive, chairman John McNaught told members of CVCC.

He said the path, which goes past Windsor Lodge would require £173,000 spend on it. Fellow community councillor Diann Hughes said that path was just “mud”.

She added: “Gravel is useless as pushchairs and bikes get stuck in it.”

Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes advised pressing the council on the matter by asking for a site meeting with council officers as this was a “well used facility”.

Concerns about the amount of traffic using the Moss of Cree road was raised by CVCC member Tom Greenaway.

Complaints about traffic speeding along the C-class road were raised at the March meeting of the CVCC by residents Michael and Shona Todd. Mr Greenaway said he got the impression that council officers who came to look at the road were “not that interested”.

He said: “The road is not fit to take the number of vehicles travelling along it. More and more people are using the road for cycling, walking and horse riding and I now hear that the Forestry Commission are going to be cutting down trees there shortly so we will have timber trucks as well.”

Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes had two suggestions. One was to talk to the owners of company vehicles using the road to ask them to get their drivers to slow down and secondly to call a site meeting with council officers “sooner rather than later”, he advised.

Cree Valley Community Council decided it had no objections to the fun fair using the Riverside car park.

Complaints had been aired by members of the town’s business association about the loss of parking spaces at the beginning of the month when the fair arrived.

Although the CVCC membership agreed the shows did inconvenience some people, it was felt they were there for such a short time and provided much needed entertainment. .

“Everybody needs a bit of fun in their lives,” said Clifford Smithers.

Cree Valley Community Council is keen to have a meeting with other community councils in Galloway to discuss concerns about the rising number of applications for wind farms in the region.

Bob Boan said: “There won’t be anywhere to park your car as there will be so many turbines.”

Mid Galloway councillor Alistair Geddes suggested that if such a meeting went ahead they would be wise to ask the area planning manager to explain the background to the planning process of dealing with wind farm applications, but he warned against coming to any conclusion that could exclude them in the future from their right to be statutory consultee in the planning process.

A councillor attending Monday night’s meeting of the Cree Valley Community Council raged that the local authority had crossed a “red line” with him by trying to relocate officers away from his area with any consultation with elected members.

Alistair Geddes’s came after news that the One Stop Shop, where residents can access council services, will be moved into Newton Stewart Library as part of a cost cutting purge by the local authority. But the idea of the planning officer being sent to Stranraer was too much for the elected member for Mid Galloway.

Councillor Geddes said: “There is no way I will stand by and see services stripped out of Mid Galloway. If the One Stop Shop moves I asked if that would leave the planning officer sitting in splendid isolation in the McMillan Hall. When I was told he would be moved to Stranraer my reaction to that was “dream on”. That was my red line issue and I have since heard the planing officer will be relocated somewhere else in Newton Stewart.

“But there has been no process at all. No business plan for elected members to have a say or any input. It’s a mess and I’m having no part of it.”

Asked if the move into the Library was imminent, a council spokesperson said: “There is no timescale yet and Community and Customer Services is not aware of any changes for Planning at present.”

The possible loss of the takeaway in Dashwood Square after the owner lost his battle with the council’s planners over illegal changes he made to the building was discussed at Monday night’s CVCC meeting.

In February, after a two-year wrangle between the local authority and Mehmet Gunar, the council were granted the authority to take down signs and return the frontage to its original state and then charge the owner for the restoration work.

Community council members were concerned that the financial burden placed on the owner by the council could lead to the fast food outlet closing its doors.

Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes explained that the applicant was facing the consequences of not following planning regulations regarding a property in a conservation area.

He said: “The owner was given every opportunity to comply with the planning process. I can assure you the planning authority have not been draconian in these circumstances.”

Cree Valley Community Council Chairman’s Report

At Monday night meeting of the CVCC, chairman John McNaught gave his report for the year past.

He said: “I would like to thank all the Cree Valley Community Council Committee members for their support and help in the past year and in particular but in no particular order, Vice Chairman Bob Boan, Treasurer Richard Kay, Secretary Morag McIllwraith and Minute Secretary Diann Hughes. Immense work was carried out once again to make sure that Newton Stewart was well lit up over the festive season and this tireless work was carried out by mainly the same few people with the help of some local contractors, you know who you are so a big thank you. Fund raising was also carried out for the lights funds and again you know who you are so thank you also. The Galloway Pageant found another venue having been not allowed to use Minnigaff Park but even allowing for this and a wet afternoon on Pageant Day the annual festival survived and many thanks goes to Diann and her hard working Committee of Volunteers for another success. The Remembrance Sunday Parade has found a new Coordinator since Andy retired from the Community Council and Richard was broken in so to speak last November and we look forward to him carrying out the annual arrangements with the same success as Andy.

“We have had another eventful year with Meetings, Training, Consultations and Visitor Presentations. The Wind Farms debate goes on while we have had to cope with the worst snow storm for many years with the Council and Police managing to look after travellers in the McMillan Hall. We have also seen the worst flooding in Newton Stewart in living memory with the successful Flood Group being set up in its wake.

“Once again we have enjoyed a mainly very good relationship with Council Officers and been visited on various occasions throughout the year to address many different issues.

“We have and continue to have a very good relationship with our elected Council Members and have to thank them for the many actions they have addressed on our behalf.

“Finally and once again I thank all members for their attendance to detail at Meetings and their courtesy of speaking through the Chair.”