Cast Iron Lighting Columns still to go – but now a recognition of our case to retain character

Letter to residents

You will be aware that we have been campaigning for much of the last 3 years to keep the few remaining cast iron lighting columns. They help to maintain the historic character of the Kite and while they are still working adequately, there seemed no reason to take them away. Apart, that is, from the Conservatives’ PFI contract with Balfour Beatty to reduce the number of street lights and replace them with bland ‘one size fits all’ models!

Our campaign has seen plenty of reverses, including Balfour Beatty prematurely ripping one of the columns out of the ground without any consultation at all! But In the last few weeks we have a glimmer of good news. The City Council has now agreed to set aside £16,500 “to improve street lighting design in a limited number of streets in the Kite”.

From the start there has been a resolute refusal to let us keep the cast iron columns or provide anything other than standard replacements. We had no choice but to focus on a solution involving more appropriate replacements.

But after further appeals, last year we got the City and County Councils to agree to fund more sensitive treatment in the “historic core” of the city. This will now allow the listed “Richardson Candles” in Trumpington Street and elsewhere to be adapted and retained, and other streets (including New Square and Portugal Place) to have modern “heritage style” columns as replacements: similar to those recently installed on Jesus Green and Parkers Piece.

But this still left Clarendon, Victoria, Earl, Fair and Christchurch Streets in the Kite, where more isolated examples of much-loved cast iron columns had received no recognition at all!

As late as this January County and City Councillors threw out our last ditch appeal to fund replacements of these columns too with the same modern “heritage style” as New Square. With Balfour Beatty now about to start their replacement programme in our area, the 11th hour £16,500 rethink by the councillors who had originally opposed this is very promising news indeed.

At the time of writing it is not clear how £16,500 was arrived at, whether it’s enough to replace all the remaining cast iron columns and the one prematurely removed in Victoria Street, or if it isn’t, how the sites for fewer of them would be chosen. You can be assured that we will be watching over this very carefully, stretching this money as far as it will go and arguing for fair treatment.

We are the first to agree this isn’t perfect. We would certainly not have chosen to start with the Conservatives’ PFI contract as a ‘fait accompli’. But persistence looks like helping us achieve the best of a bad job in relation to the cast iron columns and enabling some sense of the historic local character to be retained. We will keep the pressure up and give you more news when we have it.

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