Urgent meetings are being held this week calling on the county council to suspend its plans to scrap Harrogate’s Victorian street lamps.
The programme, announced a fortnight ago after the gas lamps were branded a safety hazard, has prompted a furious response from outraged residents. Now, as the row steps up in the Advertiser Letters pages, Harrogate council is calling on the North Yorkshire authority to temporarily suspend its plans so that an alternative solution can be explored.
“The cast iron traditional lamp-posts add a great deal to the character of Harrogate,” said Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council (HBC).
“To preserve the character of our town, to keep our lamp posts safe after over a century of use and to spend money wisely we need to find another way to proceed.
“I am therefore asking the county council to suspend the lamp-post replacement program for six-weeks so that we can find that other way. I hope they will agree. I am sure that they want to be seen as responsive to residents concerns.”
The row began a fortnight ago when the Advertiser revealed North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) scheme to replace around 900 of these cast-iron columns, which have stood since Victorian times. Originally designed for gas lamps, most have stood since the 1840s and were converted to electricity in the 1970s.
Now, NYCC says, they are too dangerous to preserve and they could soon to be replaced with standard steel columns , at a total cost of £810,000.
“The columns pose a potential threat to public safety, and must be replaced,” said County Coun Gareth Dadd, executive member for highways, in a letter to the Advertiser last week. “It is a pity that the realities of public spending in 2014 appear to be lost on some of your readers,” he added, in response to public outrage that the lamps would not be replaced like for like.
“It is impossible to justify spending so much more of the taxpayers’ money for purely aesthetic reasons.”
Coun Cooper said he is asking for a six-week suspension to reassess the lamps destined to be scrapped. He is also asking that any proceeds from the sale of the cast iron lamps be used to fund embellishment on the new ones, setting priority areas in parts of the town most visible to the public. He is also seeking talks to see what funding can be assigned, or if cash can be raised from heritage groups or individuals.
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