Works to replace Victorian era gas lamps in central London with electric street lights has been paused by Westminster council following an outcry about the plans.
The council had swapped the insides of 30 lamps so far, replacing their gas fittings with replica look-alike LED lamps while maintaining the heritage lampposts. However, the works sparked protests against the move, which while undeniably a lot more environmentally friendly and cheaper to run, do lack a certain something in their softer lighting effect and their heritage.
There are 305 gas lamps across Westminster that stem from the launch of street lighting in the early 19th century. The council says that servicing and finding spare parts for the antique lamps has proved increasingly difficult, which lead to the decision to start replacing them with LEDs.
The Council is now going to consult local residents, conservation groups and businesses on how further upgrades should proceed. No more working gas lamps will be removed while this consultation – expected to take until the end of this year – has been completed.
Cllr Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, said: “While these lamps are beautiful and atmospheric, 200-year-old fittings are increasingly difficult to maintain as spare parts are difficult to come by. Street lamps have to do the basic job of casting enough light so that people -especially women – feel safe at night. When gas lights don’t work because of lengthy repair times, that creates a safety issue.”
There is however untapped tourist potential. When Prague switched some of its electric lights back to gas in 2002, they introduced an annual lighting ceremony on the Charles Bridge which is a significant tourist event over Christmas.
It’s estimated that there are around 1,200 gas-powered street lights across Greater London still in active use.