Another consultation? Why is a consultation needed for this project?

    Listening to the community is key to the success of each of the 18 Dorset Coastal Connections projects.  The local community is at the heart of these projects and we want residents, visitors, businesses and all partners to ‘have your say’ on what the community needs from each of these artist/design led projects. 

    The Weymouth Promenade Lighting scheme's design will be based upon the aspirations of the local community.  Views from the community and visitors to Weymouth from engagement events and the ‘Dorset Coast have your say’ website ( will be collated and reviewed by the project team to ensure that the seafront gets the most appropriate lighting scheme for Weymouth.

    Consultations will be facilitated by Dorset Coast Forum, who provide an independent, impartial and hands-on approach to ensure that the community is listened to throughout. 

    The initial consultation closed on the 6th October 2017.

    Can we have the fairy lights back? - Updated 20th June 2018

    Following the first consultation in Autumn 2017, the team worked with Dorset County Council (DCC) engineers to fully understand the situation regarding the street lighting columns currently on the esplanade, and whether or not catenary lighting could be considered in our brief to artists. The advice we received from the engineers was as follows:

    ·  The Victorian columns (on the beach edge of the Esplanade) and 1970s highway lighting columns (on the road edge of the Esplanade) were removed in 2011 as part of a broader regeneration scheme for the esplanade, with the aim of de-cluttering the space, reducing light pollution and meeting current highway lighting and safety regulations. The Victorian columns were refurbished and installed at Greenhill in keeping with the area’s character, being off the public Highway and now owned and maintained by WPBC.

    ·  The ‘Sapa’ lighting columns (the modern replacements which taper to a point) were installed as part of the regeneration scheme. The quality and quantity of light given by these columns allowed them to be positioned further apart, on the highway side of the Esplanade, performing functions as both highway (higher, road-facing lamp heads) and pedestrian (lower, Esplanade-facing lamp heads) lighting. This achieved the goal of de-cluttering the Esplanade, whilst providing significant savings on running costs (the new lamps are more energy efficient, brighter and fewer), and reducing light pollution (by the quality and direction of the light emitted).

    ·  All the relevant infrastructure was altered to accommodate this change; the relevant power supplies no longer run to the old positions, and all the old footings were removed.

    ·  The ‘Sapa’ columns meet modern road safety standards and are designed to be passively safe (break off at the base in the event of a major vehicle impact). They are only able to carry the static loads included in their original design; e.g. road lanterns, small signs and hanging baskets etc. They will not support the dynamic and lateral forces generated by high tensile steel catenary cables – cables which would be necessary for any string type LED lighting to span the large gaps without snapping under their own weight or wind forces.

    ·  Catenary lighting schemes have considerable forces involved in them which need to be factored in, including sideways tension and flexion on the columns as the cables pull and relax in the wind, the weight of the installation itself (not just the lighting string itself, but the necessary top, bottom and middle tensioning and support cables, which are a substantial weight), and the unpredictability of some of those forces - gusts of wind applying significant abrupt forces for example.

    ·  The strength and frangible design of the Sapa columns, their position at the edge of the road, and their distance apart from each other all mean that catenary lighting should not be considered – the columns are completely unsuitable.

    ·  It would not be possible to sufficiently strengthen the ‘Sapa’ columns – they would require replacement with heavy duty steel columns and additional intermediate supports, as per the festoon lighting scheme at Swanage Esplanade (paid for by the town council).

    The project team (including Dorset Coastal Connections, WPBC engineers, WPBC Conservation officer and a public art specialist from Bounce Back Arts CIC) discussed all the options available, and concluded:

    ·  Replacing all the ‘Sapa’ columns and adding additional columns for a viable catenary scheme would, on its own, cost several times the grant allocation. It would also require installing a dedicated power supply at substantial cost, which could not be met by the project or WPBC, and was so high as to make it unreasonable to ask and unlikely that the community would be able to or interested in funding it.

    ·  A substantial sector of the community was encouraging us to explore other options and ‘move forward’ rather than revert to an old scheme with inherent problems.

    ·  It would be unlikely for the project to receive the necessary planning permission from WPBC to return to catenary lighting on the grounds of conservation issues.

    ·  The funds were won for this scheme on the basis that it would unite the three main character areas of the seafront- the peninsula, the main esplanade, and Greenhill. Installing different schemes in different areas would not meet this brief.

    These are substantive issues, and meant that catenary lighting could no longer be considered.

    The technical constraints, provided by DCC and WPBC engineers were incorporated into a comprehensive artists brief, and the designer appointed partly on their understanding of, and ability to meet, those constraints. The designer and engineers remain key members of the project team and will do throughout this project, which is engineer-led.

    The concept developed for presentation at the exhibition has taken all the technical and conservation constraints into account as well as feedback from the community, and the designers have developed what they consider to be the best way of delivering a display within those constraints and the budget provided; that being the strips of programmable LED lights anchored as a static load to the Esplanade side of the ‘Sapa’ columns. Within this concept there is huge capacity for influence over what those displays look like; a range of programmes can be used at different times of the evening, for special events, at Christmas etc. Over the course of this consultation we have had many very useful conversations with residents and visitors about what those programmes might show. Certainly, one possibility which has been well-received has been a soft, colourful ‘twinkling’ effect which, when seen across the sweep of the bay, is reminiscent of the catenary lighting.

    Can we have the fairy lights back? - Updated 8th December 2017

    We now have some clarity in response to this question, and a clear direction for the selected artist’s studio to take. Since the community consultation, undertaken between August and October, we have been busy finding out about the capabilities of the current infrastructure along Weymouth Seafront and the technical constraints within which the artist will need to work in designing the new lighting scheme.

    Dorset County Council (DCC), own the street lighting columns that are in place along the Esplanade to the Pier Bandstand (Zone 2) and DCC Engineershave confirmed that the street lighting columns are not strong enough to hold traditional catenary lighting of any description.  However, it will be possible to attach lightweight ‘stand-alone’ fittings to each of the columns. The technical advice we have received confirms that any kind of replacement catenary lighting scheme would exceed the weight restrictions for each of these columns.

    The community consultation, held prior to receiving the news about the light columns technical constraints, highlighted that 42% of people (376 people) who responded to the engagement questionnaire said they like ‘fairy’ or traditional catenary lights. People were encouraged to explain why, in order to help guide the scheme’s design.The most popular reasons given were that catenary lighting is colourful, warm, welcoming, traditional and that people had an emotional attachment/nostalgia to the fairy lights.

    The exciting challenge we now face, is to find an artist who can use the latest technology to design a modern, lightweight scheme that brings back the missing ‘magic’ to Weymouth Seafront. The new scheme will need to be warm, imaginative and sensitively-designed and at the same time, must complement the existing promenade lighting in a contemporary and joyful enhancement ofthe promenade’s built and natural heritage. 

    In summary then, the new lighting scheme needs to achieve a balance between re-creating the atmosphere and ‘feel’ of the prom, described to us by the community during consultation, but using modern, lightweight technology in innovative ways instead. As we have discovered - and for the reasons described above - it will therefore not be possible to re-install ‘like for like’ catenary lighting along the central section of the promenade (Zone 2). However, it is possible that some form of catenary lighting could be installed in either Zone 1 (Greenhill), or Zone 3 (Pavilion Peninsula out to the Tower), but this will be subject to further residents’ engagement and affordability of additional infrastructure from the existing budget.

    Can we have the fairy lights back? – Original FAQ dated September 2017

    It is not clear whether this will be feasible at this stage.

    The purpose of the consultation is to see what everybody wants and this will form an important part of what goes into the artist’s brief.  Parallel to the consultation the project team is looking into the existing lighting infrastructure, conservation and budget requirements for this area to see what is and is not possible.

    We do however currently know that the new street lighting columns are not strong enough to hold catenary lighting.  Any requirements like this will go into the artist and technical brief.  With new and better technology, together with new ideas; we are keen to explore all options. 

    We are keen to understand what it was about the necklace lighting that people liked or disliked. This will then help us to brief an artist to create an installation that echoes those likes, avoids the dislikes and fits the budget and conservation requirements.  The project team intends to commission a scheme for the entire stretch of the sea front which reintroduces the views, image and atmosphere for a magical evening stroll along the prom.

    Why were the old street lighting columns removed?

    Back in 2009 Dorset County Council engaged Weymouth & Portland Borough Council (W&PBC) officers and members in consultation over the replacement of highway lights along the esplanade, as a part of a larger lighting asset replacement project across the county. W&PBC requested that the replacement scheme deliver a clean and uncluttered appearance. In particular to remove all the existing wires, tannoy, cameras, signs and other clutter from the seafront street lights. Previously the street lights were a mixture of cast iron or 1970’s steel columns with a variety of heights and styles. 

    A proposed solution was to echo the material and style of lighting columns used farther around the bay, along Preston Beach Road. It was emphasised to all the stakeholders that these contemporary styled aluminum poles were suitable for their environment and could take minor attachments (e.g. small traffic signs) but could not support the load or tension of a catenary cable support system.  This limitation was accepted and the scheme completed in 2011.

    Are the lasers going?

    The lasers are excluded from this project and their future are a decision for Weymouth Town Council.  It is intended that the new lighting scheme will be versatile enough to complement the lasers but also have a strong, aesthetic identity in its own right.

    Why does it need to be artist/designer-led?

    The imagination of an innovative artist/designer - whose professional portfolio will speak for itself - will ensure the new scheme works along the entire length of the promenade and out along the Pavilion peninsula, unifying the three different character areas.

    The artist/design studio engaged for this project will be experienced in production of high quality public art especially in the field of lighting, as such a good knowledge of appropriate technology and how it can be used, will be a necessity. The appointed studio will also need to have a great track record of listening to and sensitively interpreting the views of communities, whilst incorporating any site restrictions into designs.

    In many seaside towns, arts and cultural activities and commissions have proved the catalyst to attracting new visitors - often outside of the main summer season. This has contributed to the economic regeneration of many places, such as St.Ives, Margate and Folkestone.

    Who will own and manage the new lighting scheme?

    Weymouth and Portland Borough Council will own, manage and maintain the new lighting scheme.

    Where is the money coming from?

    This project is being funded through a grant from the Coastal Communities Fund, managed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and is part of a wider portfolio. Dorset Coast Forum coordinates the Dorset Coastal Connections portfolio, which includes Weymouth as one of 18 projects along the Dorset coast. If you would like to know more about the wider portfolio, please visit 

    Who are the project team delivering the new scheme?

    The project partners leading on this project are Weymouth & Portland Borough Council (W&PBC) and Bounce Back Arts. Bounce Back Arts are a Community Interest Company set up by a small group of qualified residents in March 2015 to promote closer community involvement in public art and public realm enhancements in Weymouth and Portland.  The designers Tonkin Liu are working closely with W&PBC and Dorset County Council engineers to ensure the design is robust, low maintenance and cost effective and will be on display for many years.   

    The new scheme is being funded through a grant from the Coastal Communities Fund, and is part of a wider Dorset Coastal Connections portfolio. Dorset Coast Forum coordinates the portfolio, and are also part of the project team to make sure the community is listened to and money is spent wisely.

    How can I contact Dorset Coastal Connections?

    You can contact the Dorset Coastal Connections team at:


    Phone: 01305 224833