Residents have accused a cash-strapped council of spending thousands of pounds wrongly replacing lampposts in a conservation area it seemed not to know existed.
Midlothian Council is installing hundreds of new LED lampposts across the county.
But residents in Glebe Street and Mitchell Street, Dalkeith, were horrified to discover their black, swan-necked lampposts were being swapped for modern aluminium columns.
Peter Robinson said he approached one councillor to discuss the move but was told it was an operational decision.
However, Mr Robinson said he then spoke to the lighting engineer overseeing the project who said he was the one who decided how lampposts should be replaced and admitted he did not know the two streets – just a few hundred yards from council headquarters – were in conservation areas. “He said if he had known he would have taken that into consideration and may have made a different decision.
“And he has since said he would see if they could paint the new ones black, which indicates an admission of having made the wrong decision.”
Mr Robinson said the council’s own website said the authority had a duty in conservation areas to “pay special attention” to the character and appearance of the area and that lighting was to be “of suitable character”.
“The council is failing in that duty,” he said. “We can’t even put in double glazing without permission from the council yet they’re coming along, ripping out lampposts.
“Ironically, we have an application in to refurbish an outbuilding so there is a planning notice on the lamppost which says it is a conservation area. It is written on the lamppost they are taking away.
“They have also planted one of the new lampposts in a tree – so it doesn’t shine right into a bedroom window – and they said they would be writing to the owner to ask them to cut back the tree. But the owner will then have to write to the council for permission to do that because it’s a conservation area.”
Although the new lampposts are in place, they have not yet been switched on and the old ones are still operating. Residents have started a petition asking the council to review its decision.
The council said the existing lampposts in Glebe Street and Mitchell Street were standard issue, so the replacements were also standard ones.
A spokeswoman said: “All columns over 30 years old are being replaced with aluminium ones and LED, energy efficient lanterns as part of a ten-year-programme.
“If an inspection finds a lamppost is what is known as a ‘conservation column’, which these are not, then they would be replaced with a specially made lamppost, costing circa £1000 each. Aluminium posts cost around £300 each.”
She said planning permission was not required for replacing the lampposts so it was at the discretion of the roads service which type of column should be used.
But she said a member of the council’s lighting team had met representatives of Dalkeith Community Council and offered to paint the new lampposts black.