CONTROVERSIAL plans to replace Harrogate’s historic street lamps with a modern design could be reined in with moves afoot to give them a more sympathetic makeover.
Concerns have been raised after North Yorkshire County Council, which is responsible for street lights, said it needed to replace Victorian lamps in a number of streets across the spa town – including the Stray – because of health and safety fears.
However, it said it could only afford to replace them with standard lamps.
The county council agreed to suspend its plans while campaigners looked for a way forward after the move sparked controversy.
Now members of Harrogate Borough Council are to debate spending its own cash on a scheme which would see iron cladding added to the new posts to ensure they closely resemble the previous traditional street lamps.
Coun Richard Cooper, the leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said yesterday the council was not responsible for street lights but it was keen to protect the town’s heritage and on Wednesday its cabinet will be asked to spend £40,000 from its own budget on the re-cladding scheme.
“They are part of the character of the town; they are part of the feel of the place,” he said of the lamps.
Harrogate has about 900 cast iron street lamps, which have stood since Victorian times in the spa town. Originally designed for gas, most have stood since the 1840s and were converted to electricity in the 1970s.
However, the £40,000 budget, if backed by Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet on Wednesday, falls a long way short of the cash needed to carry out work on all of the town’s street lights.
Coun Cooper said the authority was looking at funding cladding for lamp-posts in the most visible areas of Harrogate, such as The Stray, but he has not ruled out extending the cladding scheme in future if more cash can be found.
He said: “It looks like we might be coming to a sensible conclusion which satisfies the health and safety statutory duties of the county council and also our wish to retain the special charm and unique character of our area. Our district relies on tourism, which underpins many thousands of jobs.
“We aren’t going to be able to retain and grow our tourism business if we become the same as every other town and district,” Coun Cooper added.
Andrew Jones, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP, said: “I am pleased that it looks like Harrogate Council has been able to work with the county council to come up with a good solution. I remain concerned that councils can sweep away the distinctive heritage of an area for health and safety reasons without being compelled to give due regard to that heritage.”
North Yorkshire County Council says that over the course of time, a number of the lamps have developed problems, including wiring concerns, and have deteriorated to the extent they now pose safety risks.
The county council says its street lighting team has identified the lamps in need of replacement and it has already replaced 40, with 240 lamps earmarked for removal this year. The remaining columns are being inspected on a regular basis.
They are being replaced with standard steel columns, costing around £900, cheaper than the £1,700-£1,800 cost of the more decorative street lamps – which the county council, faced with cuts to its funding, cannot afford.