Residents protest at glaring school lights at Pamphill, Wimborne
COUNCIL representatives met with residents on Monday to answer their complaint that bright lights at the QE leisure centre and QE school are making their lives a misery.
The meeting involved representatives of Dorset County Council, who in 2011 completed and opened the newly rebuilt eco-friendly school on the site in Blandford Road, Wimborne at a cost of £56.2 million, and Christchurch and East Dorset Partnership leisure and open spaces department responsible for the leisure centre.
It was arranged by local county councillor Robin Cook who wanted to see the alleged problems first hand.
Resident John Dowling, who acted as spokesman for his neighbours, said: "The main problem is the blinding white light, which is overpowering, especially when it is a bit overcast. It is far more than is necessary, and brighter outside than inside people's houses. They've got lights everywhere, on the car park and the sports pitches, and are not very good at turning them off when they have finished.
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"Some of the residents in The Broads get the full glare, and also get car headlights shining into their houses, which is disturbing for elderly retired people in their bungalows. There have been occasions when they have been on all night, and I've come in from work at three in the morning to find them on. They were even on on Christmas Day.
"It's not just the disturbance, but the cost implication when they are turning off street lights elsewhere in the county, and the electricity bill for the campus is said to be £30,000 a year."
He said he felt the residents had been given a fair hearing and the local authority representatives could see what was involved.
Mr Cook said: "I had been aware of how bright the complex appears from as far away as Sturminster Marshall and parts of the A31, but wanted to talk directly to the local residents and listen to their concerns with a view to appropriate action being taken to mitigate those concerns.
"I am fully supportive of the residents, and am looking for a full appraisal of the situation to be undertaken by the county council."
He said he was aware that some of the issues with the lighting were historical, but was shocked to see and hear the extent to which the lights still blazed, not only in the car parks but also on occasions inside the building late at night.
Apart from the distress caused to local residents, who had been used to looking out over a dark sky and open fields, and despite the likelihood that the lights were the new low-energy type being installed in streets all over the county, it seemed an extraordinary waste of money, he said.
He said that as a member of the board of school governors, he would also be raising the issue at the governors meeting next Tuesday in a bid to resolve the situation.
The school was, when it was being built, hailed as a national example of sustainable, environmentally-friendly design, featuring woodchip-burning boilers, solar and wind power, rain-water recycling, recycled building materials and low-energy use.
David Roe, Dorset County Council's buildings and design manager said: "I attended the meeting to listen to the local residents views and take seriously their concerns about the external lighting of QE school. We will consider the options available to try and find a suitable solution to this situation."
He said that as part of its planning permission, the school and leisure centre had a lighting pattern for the campus detailed which lights were on and when during normal opening hours, and it was possible it might need adjustment to minimise glare.
Matti Raudsepp, head of leisure and open spaces Christchurch and East Dorset Councils, said: "We are keen to work with the school and local residents to minimise any negative impacts that the operation of the leisure centre may have on the local community.
"We have now made alterations to the times at which car park lighting comes on and goes off, so that the lighting is on no later than necessary. Should a further review of lighting on the site take place, we would be happy to consider the recommendations that come forward at that time."