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Penarth’s Victorian Lamposts

In early 2019 local residents were dismayed to see several of our iconic Victorian lampposts being removed and replaced with galvanised steel modern replacements. There were several protests and a great many letters to both the Vale of Glamorgan Council and the local media. The Vale Council had taken the decision to replace the posts with more energy efficient LED lighting units.

A Victorian lamppost awaiting its fate

There was a petition arranged by a local resident, Gemma Critchley and this attracted over 1200 signatures, the Civic Society also emailed the Council to protest and ask that the programme was halted, however we were advised that the programme had been announced as far back as 2018 and instructions had been put in place for contractors to carry out the upgrade.In July whilst walking his dogs in Victoria square one of our Trustees noticed that there were still some of the original posts and the Society decided to submit a Freedom of Information Request in a last attempt to save the posts. As a charitable body we hoped that we may be able to apply for grant funding to save them,

30/07/19 Freedom of Information Request

Please can you tell me how many lampposts are still remaining and how many have been removed.

We are interested in the possibility of investigating grant opportunities to save as many of the lampposts as possible.

Therefore we would also like to ask for the additional information of just what is involved in the process of upgrading and a breakdown of the costs thereof.

68 columns have been replaced, 200 remain

Cost of replacement in similar style

Cast Iron Column £2500 (approximate costs)

LED Lantern £700

Plant & Labour £800

Costs £4000

Cost of Standard Column

Standard Column £100 (current standard residential spec)

Standard LED Lantern £120

Plant & Labour £800

Costs £1020

However this answer did not answer our key question, of whether it would be possible to convert them, so we submitted a further Request.

27/8/19 Further Question

You have not answered the key question, that is what the cost would be to CONVERT the present columns to LED lighting rather than replacing them.

28/8/19 Answer

It is not possible to replace the old Victorian columns as they are either electrically unsafe or structurally unsound.

Therefore we are unable to provide a cost for something that cannot be practicably achieved.

We were unhappy with this broad brushstroke approach so submitted a further request with particular reference to two lampposts in Beach Lane which had already been converted to LED light. These posts were of an unsuitable design, pictured below, but at least they showed that conversion was possible

30/8/19 Further Question

Thank you for your response, however it raises further questions.

1) How many of the 268 lampposts were actually inspected to see if they were either structurally unsound or electrically unsafe?.

2) Please can we see the results of any such inspections?

3) Of the 68 posts already lost, how many of them were found to be structurally unsound or unsafe once they were ripped out of the ground by the Contractors?

4) Two lampposts in Beach Lane/Kymin Terrace have actually been converted to LED units, how much did these cost and why were they converted?

This resulted in a very interesting response

1/10/19 Answer

Question 1

The existing cast iron columns have never been structurally tested. However, all the cast iron columns are in poor condition and this is evident from the connection boxes that have recently collapsed.

Question 2

There were electrical test certificates but these have been archived. I have contacted the service area again to check if any of these can be made available. I have not had a response as of yet. If we are able to provide any of these within the time limit of 18 hours (as specified in the Freedom of Information Act) I will let you know.

Question 3:

No information available.

Question 4:

Council Policy was to convert all lanterns in residential areas to LED. Cast iron columns were part of this process however it was brought to our attention by the contractor that the spigot was too weak to support the loading of the new lantern. In the interest of health and safety, it was decided to stop the LED lantern replacement on this particular column type. With reference to costs, we can confirm that the cost for the lantern replacements in Beach Lane was approximately £160.00 per column.

We then approached some other Councils and received very helpful advice from Canterbury City Council in particular, they put us in touch with some street furniture suppliers and contractors who had converted the lampposts in Canterbury to LED.

We learned that the main issue they had was the fact that when the posts had been converted to electric lights from gas the junction box for the mains cable to the lamps was placed at the top of the column, this made electrical testing and maintenance more difficult than necessary because contractors needed a cherry picker to enable access at height.

They had resolved this by installing a junction box panel at ground level.

It then became clear that when the Vale Council was saying that the “electrically unsafe” element of their argument related to the fact that some of the junction boxes had burst open and had to be taped up with tape

to hold them together.

Picture of a damaged Junction box with tape holding the cover together.
Damaged Junction Box

The “structurally unsound” element related to the fact that when a test lamppost in Beach Lane had been converted to LED the contractor had reported that the spigot which was used to attach the new unit did not look like it would be strong enough to support the new unit. This LED unit was not appropriate to the Conservation Area as it was of a modern design. Another structural issue was that some lampposts had started to lean due to subsidence issues.

the contractor said they were unhappy that the spigot would support the weight of the new unit
Example of the converted coulmn, with LED lamp

Our work with the street furniture suppliers suggested that a ground level junction box and LED lantern could be sourced for approximately £700.00 plus fitting. In October 2019 we wrote to the Chief Executive of the Vale Council, expressing our concern and the fact that in our opinion, rather than spending £1020 on replacing the columns, they could be upgraded with more appropriate lanterns at less cost than this. We were pleased to be invited to a meeting with Peter King, Councillor responsible for Neighbourhood Services and Miles Punter, Director of Neighbourhood Services.

At the meeting we were told that following on from a change of control at the Council the Executive had reviewed the programme in the light of the huge public opinion backlash and that they had decided to replace the posts with a more sympathetic design, a modern reproduction post with a Victorian style lantern. We welcomed this gesture, but pointed out that we already have the genuine article and that we believed that they could be converted cost effectively.

suggested as a replacement for the Victorian columns
A Reproduction Column

We decided as a group to work together with the suppliers that we had suggested to see if the existing posts could in fact be upgraded to LED units cost effectively. The suppliers came to a second group meeting and it was decided that a ground level junction box would be the best way to overcome the structural and electrical issues that had been causing the problems earlier. In fact it was Mr Puntland who suggested the final design box, having seen a similar one during a visit to the City of Westminster.

A test lamppost conversion was ordered and this was completed in Rectory Road in May 2020.

In Rectory Road
Newly painted, LED converted, Victorian lamppost

The conversion was a success and the Council is now going to go out to tender to convert all of the existing Victorian posts, as long as they have not started to lean too severely. The posts in Cwrt-y-Vill Road which had been removed have been converted to the reproduction columns.

Penarth Civic Society would like to thank the Vale of Glamorgan Council for being big enough to listen to the argument, accept that we all have a responsibility to preserve our heritage wherever possible and reverse their original decision. We are pleased that we have all been able to work together in collaboration to save our Victorian Lampposts. The upgraded lampposts look lovely, they are much more in keeping with the conservation area and of course are also much more energy efficient than the old ones.


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