Outraged civic groups have spoken of their fury at plans to replace Harrogate’s historic street lamps with “ghastly” modern ones after they were branded a safety hazard.
There are 900 characterful cast-iron columns, originally designed for gas lamps, lighting streets across Harrogate since Victorian times.
Most have stood since the 1840s but they could soon to be replaced at a cost of £810,000 after North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) deemed them a “significant safety risk”.
Now, furious civic groups and historians have spoken out against the move, calling on the authority to rethink its decision.
“Is it too much to ask that if they must replace our historic lamp posts, that they make some attempt to replicate the original designs, and not to fob us off with these ghastly poles?” said Advertiser series historian Malcolm Neesam. “They are part of the Victorian design of the town - as well as the buildings, the streets, the pavements. They are all from that period.
“This decision is very autocratic. These modern lights are being foisted upon the public without any consultation at all.
“The first the public know is when the chalk marks appear on the pavement for the county council to come and move them.”
The columns were originally designed for gas lamps in a time before electricity, and were lit daily by a man known as a ‘lamp-lighter’.
They were all converted to electricity in the 1970s but have maintained their Victorian style. Now, NYCC, says, they are too dangerous to preserve.
“Over the course of time, a number of these columns have deteriorated, to the extent that they now pose significant safety risks,” a spokesman said.
“The risks include the weakening of the top of the columns, and problems with the wiring which can result in the entire columns becoming electrically unsafe.”
Forty columns have already been replaced as a matter of urgency, the spokesman said, with a further 240 or so to be removed this year.
“The remaining columns are being inspected on a regular basis to ensure that any which pose a potential threat to public safety are removed,” he said.
Civic groups in Harrogate say it is important to the heritage of the town that these old-style lamps are maintained - whatever the cost.
“Nobody is happy about this,” said Henry Pankhurst, chairman of Harrogate Civic Society, adding that he had been contacted by several concerned residents.
“Quite small things can contribute to the quality and historic nature of our area.
“To many people, the exchange of an old lamp for a modern one is whittling away at the conservation area.”
NYCC says the decorative street lamps are to be replaced with standard steel columns at half the cost - around £900 each instead of the £1,800 it would cost to replace like for like.
In these times of austerity, the spokesman said, it couldn’t consider such luxuries. “In the past, the council would have given positive consideration to using decorative columns where it was considered to be aesthetically desirable,” said the spokesman.
“However, in the current period of public spending austerity, such an option is not affordable.
“Although the county council’s policy is to instal non-decorative replacement columns, the more expensive decorative columns may be installed if organisations, such as Harrogate Borough Council (HBC), or individuals agree to contribute the cost difference.”
Advertiser readers have been in touch to voice their view on the changes.
Janet Laycock said: “Harrogate’s historic street lamps are an attractive feature of our local street scene, especially in Harrogate’s conservation area. Individual lamp posts may, unfortunately be dangerous and need to be replaced but, for the rest, “Let well alone”.
Eddie Lyell said: “This is a major error both in terms of preservation of character and future revenue for Harrogate. If you ask anyone who visits Harrogate why they come it is because it is different to the norm. Harrogate is a mix of Edwardian and Victorian charm, it is something that once gone cannot be replaced. Why would you want to visit Harrogate if it looks like everywhere else?
John Henderson said: “Cities with heritage such as Washington DC are replacing modern lamps with the heritage ones as part of the restoration of neighbourhoods. Please think twice and consider making good the old lamps.”
“Please can you assure us, and the general public, that our conservation areas and other streets that benefit from “heritage” lamp posts will not be degraded due to second class replacements. It is a duty of the council to maintain and enhance conservation areas.”
Henry Pankhurst, chairman of Harrogate Civic Society
“The lamp posts should reflect the area in which they are placed. The modern ones don’t do that. The borough council has already paid for them once - in 1849. Why should they pay for them again?”
Advertiser historian and author Malcolm Neesam
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