A row has broken out in the Advertiser’s letters pages over plans to scrap Harrogate’s historic street lamps.
North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) revealed last week it is to replace up to 900 of the town’s old Victorian lamps after branding them a safety hazard.
Outraged civic groups spoke out in last week’s paper over the plans to replace these characterful old lamps with ‘ghastly’ modern ones.
And now the Advertiser has seen a flurry of responses from residents and county councillors, written for the paper’s letters pages and online.
“It is a pity that the realities of public spending in 2014 appear to be lost on some of your readers,” said County Coun Gareth Dadd, executive member for highways, in a letter this week.
“The council is responding to the austerity measures introduced nationally.
“It is impossible to justify spending so much more of the taxpayers’ money for purely aesthetic reasons.”
There are 900 of these characterful cast-iron columns, originally designed for gas lamps, lighting streets across Harrogate since Victorian times.
Most have stood since the 1840s and, originally designed for gas lamps in a time before electricity, 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 and they could soon to be replaced with standard steel columns at a cost of £810,000.
“The 900 or so cast iron street lighting columns involved were never designed to function with electricity,” said County Coun Dadd. “Over the course of the years, many have deteriorated.
“While the county council has a responsibility for street lighting, it has an equal, indeed arguably greater, responsibility for ensuring public safety.
“One of your correspondents complains that there has been no consultation on the issue. I am at a loss to understand what we would or could consult about.
“The columns pose a potential threat to public safety, and must be replaced.”
The council said the more expensive columns could be installed if organisations, such as Harrogate Borough Council (HBC), or individuals agreed to contribute the cost difference.
This prompted a flood of readers’ responses, on the letters pages and online.
“It’s a disgrace”, said reader Greg Davies, of Robert Street. “The gas lamps are an intrinsic part of the historic atmosphere of Harrogate, and that is a key part of the local tourist based economy. Bureaucrats at their worst!”
Resident Granville Simpson, of South Park Road, said: “These sort of desisions made by a ‘remote’ county council seemingly not aware as to the sort of reaction this is likely to create or even worse, just don’t care! Roll on the day we have a unitary council that local voters will have some influence on.”
Stuart Rhodes, of The Avenue, wrote: “These new posts have zero character, detracting rather than adding to the community.”
And online, on the Advertiser’s Facebook page, there were more comments.
“I don’t recall any incidences of a lamp falling on anyone!”, said Keith Wyatt. “Health and safety taking over, again!”
Ellisa Cobb said: “They need to keep the design. If they have to replace them they need to replace them with lookalikes.”
Mark Anthony Smith said: “When making any big changes to the look and feel of our town there should always be public consultation.
And Katrina Howden said: “People visit Harrogate because it’s a beautiful town! Our lampposts add to it’s character and the modern ones are ugly and totally out of keeping with the look of our town.”
Reader Janet Dinsdale added: “This is crazy, safety hazard, yet they have been there since Victorian times, ridiculous.”
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