A tale of two lamp posts
by Robin Morley from The Round Hill Reporter March 2004
Following the extraordinary national news story this month about the banning of flower baskets from lamp- posts in Bury St Edmonds, as part of their Britain in Bloom campaign, we now have our own Round Hill lamp-post tale to tell.
New lamps for old?
One morning last October, contractors arrived at the bottom end of Richmond Road to remove a working cast iron 100-year-old Victorian lamp-post and replace it with a “mock” replica, for safety reasons, they said. As they departed with the original in the back of the truck, they quipped that it would most likely end up ‘in a pub garden somewhere’.
Residents were left, stunned, with a modern steel replica, much higher than the original and as dusk fell, discovered there was no working street light either; the contractors, in their haste to get away, had forgotten to switch the power on.
This institutional vandalism in a conservation area angered local residents, as the Council had not given any notice. We all know the tight conservation regulations, information and public notices required from residents by the Council for any building changes we want to make. Are we living in a one-way street on lamp-post conservation and changes in the Round Hill area?
Two months later in December, all was still in darkness with no working lamp-post and no explanation as to why it had been replaced. The conservation officer promised to look into its disappearance and then seemed to find it difficult to identify a City policy on lamp-post maintenance and conservation.
The story and the darkness rolled on, Christmas came and went; finally, early in the New Year, after a shower of e-mails to local councillors, Council officers sprang into action.
Within hours of pushing the e-mail send button, the conservation officer came back with an answer that replacement was allowed for individual lamp-posts. The same morning the City’s lighting engineer was standing on doorsteps to explain why the original lamp-post had been removed - it was no longer suitable for maintenance because it did not have an inspection panel at street level to switch off the power.
But there was a solution. In February, four months after the loss of the original, we now have a working replacement original Victorian period lamp-post, with a separate power isolation box.
Council officers told us that the whole sad tale of two lamp-posts was due to contracting out of the maintenance of street lights across the City and as a consequence, many poor decisions were made on the replacement of street lights. Other street lighting replacements which had be made in the Round Hill area were referred to as being, ‘a bit of a dog’s breakfast’. The Council is now taking street lighting management back in house.
A lesson from this sorry tale of two lamp-posts is that it appears there is no clear Council policy on lamp-post maintenance, their replacement and any conservation issues that arise. Local consultation on this would be helpful and seems to be being considered. Another lesson is if you want action on a local issue involving the Council, pick up the telephone or hit the email button to your local councillor: it works.
If you see a Round Hill type Victorian grey lamp-post with number 7 on it in a pub garden, let the Council conservation officer know, as we would really like the 100-year-old original back please.