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Tower Bridge to get colour-changing lights for 2012 Olympics

As work is completed on the repainting of Tower Bridge, City Hall has announced plans for a new lighting system to highlight the structure's architectural features at night.

John Wolfe-Barry
John Wolfe-Barry with a photograph of his great grandfather who built Tower Bridge

The major restoration of Tower Bridge was completed at the end of March and with the polyethylene wraps removed from the freshly painted bascules, the bridge is now back in full operation.

"As custodians of one of the world's most iconic and much-loved structures, it is a privilege to be trusted with the responsibility of ensuring it is preserved for future generations to enjoy," said bridge master Eric Sutherns MBE.

Tower Bridge was the creation of architect Sir Horace Jones and civil engineer Sir John Wolfe-Barry. It was originally painted a greenish-blue colour and was a chocolate brown before adopting its present colours of blue, white and red for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1976.

John Wolfe-Barry, the engineer's great grandson, was guest of honour at a reception to celebrate the completion of the 4 million repainting project.

Now the Mayor of London has announced a deal between City Hall, City of London Corporation, EDF and GE to install a state-of-the-art energy-efficient lighting system on Tower Bridge.

Plans include LEDs, flexible lighting and a new cabling system to complement the bridge's features – such as its gothic turrets, central aerial walkway and suspension chains – in colours sensitive to its listed building status.

The lighting system will be flexible, allowing for both varying colours and intensity of light, enabling Tower Bridge to respond to special events in a spectacular manner.

City Hall claims that the use of energy efficient LED technology will reduce the energy consumption of the lighting system by an estimated 40 per cent on today's usage.

The new lighting system will require planning permission from Southwark Council and Tower Hamlets Council.

If planning permission is granted, work could start by September and be completed by spring 2012 in time for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"I want London to look its very best in 2012 as the eyes of the world are upon us," said Boris Johnson.

"Tower Bridge is one of this city's most stunning landmarks, recognised the world over and therefore deserving of a star role in these year-long celebrations. I am thrilled to have brokered this deal at no cost to the taxpayer – to bathe Tower Bridge in eco-friendly light to create a fresh perspective of this wonderful icon. This is another great legacy for London stretching for decades beyond the Olympic year."

EDF Energy will become the lighting electricity supplier for Tower Bridge and will match every unit of electricity that it supplies to Tower Bridge with power generated from low carbon sources.

"Following our partnership with the London Eye, EDF is delighted to be involved in this exciting project to help reduce the carbon footprint of another iconic London landmark ahead of the games," says EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz.

Changes to Tower Bridge can prove controversial, as the City of London Corporation found when it applied for permission to put advertising on the polythene wrap covering the bridge's bascules during the repainting work.

EDF's sponsorship of the London Eye has also provoked a dispute between the wheel's owners and Lambeth Council as to whether the corporate EDF orange paint applied to one of the wheel's capsules constitutes an advertisement for the energy company.

If Tower Bridge's new lighting system turns orange we could see a similar debate in Southwark and Tower Hamlets.

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