The life of a lamp post is around 30 years. Nearly all the ones in our borough are of a modernist “tooth brush” design (pictured top right).
The bureaucrats like them as they are relatively cheap (a thousand pounds a lamp post) – there is also the administrative convenience of a drab uniformity being maintained.
However most residents regard the traditional lantern design or “heritage lighting” (pictured underneath) as more attractive. It does cost a bit more – around £1,300 each.
So who should be put first – the residents or the bureaucrats?
In an area of Ravenscourt Park Ward – St Peter’s Square and Black Lion Lane – residents offered to pay the extra cost (about £300 a lamp post) so that they could have lantern design rather than toothbrush replacements. The cost for 55 lamp posts was still considerable – but there was some sponsorship from local shops and the residents association used up some reserves.
Under the Conservative council this was allowed to go ahead – despite some delay and bureaucratic resistance.
As a result St Peter’s Square and Black Lion Lane are now (even) more attractive places to live and walk through than they were previously.
Other residents – for example in Westcroft Square, Hammersmith Terrace and Ravenscourt Gardens – have been keen to do the same. There was keen interest from amenity groups. Such a civic minded ambition should be encouraged rather than penalised.
I proposed that whenever lamp posts were due for replacements residents should be written to and alerted to the offer of the attractive alternative of lantern replacements – if they are willing and able to raise the sponsorship.
Where possible, Section 106 funding should be made available to help with the cost – so that property development can enhance rather than always blight the appearance of our streets.
Also where residents felt that there was more lighting than they wanted I proposed that their wishes should be respected. Some would welcome a reduced number of lamp posts – feeling they are subjected to “light pollution”. That would also provide a saving in reduced energy bills. It could also make switching to the traditional lamp posts more affordable.
More mundanely there should be some flexibility to allow installation of the heritage lighting before the lamp posts were due for replacements – if the residents were prepared to pay the proportionate cost.
These are all points of detail but the general approach would have been clear enough. If the Conservatives had won the council elections there would have been encouragement to residents.
I’m afraid that under Labour the policy is proving to be one of obstruction. It is not quite a complete prohibition but they are offering every possible discouragement.
For example there would be extortionate extra costs for “officer time”. If a lamp post was being replaced a couple of years early – after it had already been in place for 25 years – the full £1,300 cost would be charged for a heritage replacement. It would obviously be more reasonable to charge the £300 extra plus the proportionate cost based on the remaining life span of the toothbrush lamp post. So if it had a couple of years of life left the bill should be £300 plus £100 not £300 plus £1,000.
Why has the Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Residents Services, Cllr Wesley Harcourt, decided to be so unreasonable?
Does he have some curious antipathy to the inhabitants of Westcroft Square?
Does he have some idiosyncratic aesthetic preference for tooth brush lamp posts?
Cllr Harcourt is a genial fellow but I am afraid he is not really in charge. He is just letting the bureaucrats do what they like. Yet Cllr Harcourt is paid a “Special Responsibility Allowance” of £21,545.20p a year – on top of his basic allowance of £8,940 a year. How can this be justified when he is not really responsible but simply rubber stamps everything?
Under the Conservatives the council’s motto was: “Putting residents first.” Maybe we didn’t always succeed. But that was the clear aim.The interests of residents dominated the agenda – lower Council Tax, better schools, cleaner streets, lower crime, greener parks.
Labour have ditched the slogan. The aim has been abandoned. There is no replacement statement of belief. There is a vast void of empty nothingness.
The council is on autopilot – of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats.
So we will be stuck, among other things, with tooth brush lamp posts.