Signs with the message ‘Save our streetlamps’ can be seen in several windows on a road in Peckham, South London, where a group of residents are protesting against a planned street lighting upgrade.
"The streetlights we have are quite ornate and nice, whereas the new ones that Skanska is putting up, are not."
The residents of Dennett’s Road are upset because their street is due to have its old heritage lanterns swapped for ‘ugly, modern ones’ while other streets around them are getting new lights in the old style.
Lux has spoken to several residents who feel that they are just as deserving of the nice old-fashioned streetlights as the streets around them – all these streets are part of the Telegraph Hill conservation area and subject to the same planning regulations.
‘The council has done an assessment of the various streets within the conservation area and decided that Dennett's Road doesn't warrant the extra cost of the heritage lighting,’ resident Paul Aston told Lux. He added: ‘I'm particularly aggrieved by this because recent home improvement projects have cost us a lot in planning permission fees, due to the road being in the conservation area.’
JC Trinder, another resident on Dennett’s Road, said: ‘Other streets around here will get new lights that are designed to look more like the old ones, but the council says it doesn’t fit this street and that there isn’t enough money. I don’t know if it’s because there are so many council estates on this street. It’s a shame.’
Several residents on the street have put up posters in their front windows bearing the words ‘Save our streetlamps’. They were distributed by Alison Irwin, another resident on the road. Irwin says the council’s decision doesn’t make sense. ‘Adjacent roads in the same conservation area, who currently have regular lamps, are having theirs replaced with heritage style lamps – so it doesn't appear fair,’ she said.
The unhappy residents have complained directly to Lewisham Council and started an online petition on Change.org.
‘We, on Dennett’s Road, will lose our lovely streetlamps and they will be replaced with ugly modern ones…’ states the petition. ‘We already have heritage streetlamps, so if our streetlamps are to be renewed, they should replace like with like. We have not been consulted about this significant change to the look and feel of our road.’
They’re not the first homeowners to rebel against council plans to upgrade their streetlights. In 2013, some Croydon residents resorted to throwing their arms around their streetlights in a bid to stop contractors taking them away, while in Greater Manchester, local man Simon Nicholas has been in a battle with his local council over LED streetlights for two years.
No going back now
Lewisham Council has responded individually to the residents’ complaints. In an email seen by Lux, a council official explains to a resident that it is too late to stop the impending upgrade; the council signed a 25-year contract with streetlight provider Skanska-Laing in 2011, which requires most streetlights to be replaced before July 2015.
The council can’t afford to install new heritage-style lamps everywhere, the official explains, so all the streets within the boundaries of the Telegraph Hill conservation area have all been evaluated, and Dennett’s Road scored lower on a list of townscape and conservation criteria than other streets.
Besides, the email states, the new lighting will be more energy efficient and require less maintenance than the many and varied ornate lanterns currently in place.
But energy efficiency and reduced running costs is of little consolation to the house owners on Dennett’s Road. As JC Trinder puts it: ‘The streetlights we have are quite ornate and nice, whereas the new ones that Skanska is putting up, are not.’
At the time of publication, Lewisham Council had not responded to Lux’s request for comment.