THIS is the dramatic moment council officers turned up at the house where a man was trying to sell historic seafront lights on Facebook.
Brighton and Hove City Council arrived at a house in Bramber Avenue, Hangleton, where the man was attempting to flog a pair of the lanterns for £575.
An officer pulled the two lanterns, which had been removed from Brighton seafront, out of the house and placed them on to the grass.
Facebook seller caught on camera
A van then pulled up and its boot was opened before both the officer and the man went to put them in the trunk.
The Argus watched the scene unfold from the roadside, having spent the day arranging to “buy” the lights.
Work began this week to remove 20 seafront heritage lanterns after they were found to pose a safety risk.
Contractor Colas was instructed to try to preserve the original materials.
An independent consultancy firm was due to work with English Heritage to consider “long term solutions to restore the historic lanterns”.
Workers remove our historic seafront lights
But just days later, an advert appeared online selling two “Brighton and Hove retro Victorian lights” for £575.
The advert read: “Here you have the wonderful opportunity to purchase a PAIR [sic] of original Victorian Brighton and Hove lamps, these are 100 per cent genuine and once adorned the seafront but sadly recently decommissioned.
“Would suite [sic] a number of wonderful ideas from the garden to the house, a wonderful conversion piece never to be offered again, an absolute one off.”
The man was offering the pair on Facebook
The Argus phoned the seller, pretending to be a heritage enthusiast who wanted the pieces of history for his garden.
The seller identified himself as “Joe” on the phone.
Joe said: “I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t got many, I’ve only got two.
“To be perfectly fair, they came off the seafront only about a week ago.
“To my knowledge, the reason I got them is because I work in construction, but the thing is, the ones that were being decommissioned by the seafront, as I understood, were being sold to a private buyer.
Pictures of the lights were included within the advert
“So therefore, I couldn’t get more than I could get, but I had my hands on two and that’s all I could get.”
Joe said he was happy to sell the pair for £450 after having loads of people “asking, asking and asking”.
When asked whether the lights were definitely from the seafront, Joe replied: “They are the ones from the seafront, it’s even in black marker pen got the address of the house that they were opposite because when they were being decommissioned, they put the address on each lamp.”
The Argus agreed to meet the man at 3pm yesterday to look at the lamps with a view to “buying” them.
Earlier this week, the council said recent inspections of more than 80 lanterns on Marine Parade and Madeira Drive found 20 posed a safety risk and should be removed and replaced urgently. Forty more will be replaced within the next 12 months.
Pictures from the seafront sent in by readers showed workmen removing the historic lanterns this week.
The Argus passed a recording of the phone call and the man’s number to the council to inform them of the attempted sale.
Meanwhile, reporters on their way to have a look at the lights received a phone call from the man at 2.50pm.
He said: “You won’t believe this but I’ve just had a phone call from Brighton and Hove City Council and he said ‘where’d you get those lights from?’.
“I said ‘I asked and I was given, I didn’t take’.
“He said, ‘here’s the short of it, they belong to Brighton and Hove City Council, unless you want the police involved, I want them back’.”
Joe said he was given the lights and added: “No money was exchanged, nothing like that.
“I’ve was told the pictures have got to come off [Facebook] and the council was coming around my house in 15 minutes to come and get them.
“Funny, I’ve had them for sale for a few days and the day I’ve got someone coming to see them is the day that the council come on the door asking for them back.”
The man said he felt he had been caught in the middle of the situation.
He said: “I said to the council, you can get the police involved because, you know what, I asked, I stopped in the road, I asked and I was given them.
“Unfortunately, I’ve got to say no as I’ll get into more trouble, so, unfortunately, you can’t have your lights.”
Moments later he added: “I’ve just sussed who you are, see you later.”
As expected, a city council worker arrived at the address as The Argus watched on. Our car was then spotted by Joe as he helped the officer load the lanterns into the car.
He ran over, opened the car’s door and grabbed the keys from the ignition. He demanded the phone used to capture the pictures of the seizure be handed over.
After shouting expletives at the reporters, he said: “Hang on a minute, let me just phone this number on my phone.”
‘Give me the phone’ – moment seller confronted The Argus reporters in their car
Speaking earlier this week about the seafront lighting, Amy Heley, chairwoman of the environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “We need to carry out this work urgently as some of the lighting now poses a risk to public safety.
“Our seafront lighting is an iconic part of the city and we will be looking at options for replacing the lanterns so that we don’t lose any of that visual history, but the safety of our residents and visitors is a key priority.
“The lanterns will be replaced with temporary lighting to ensure the areas are well lit and safe for people to continue using.”
A council spokesman said: “We were concerned to see that two of the city’s historic lanterns were being advertised for sale on Facebook. These have now been safely retrieved.
“Twenty of our seafront lanterns are being taken down by our contractor Colas because they are in a condition that poses a safety risk to the public.
“Colas have been instructed to store the lanterns whilst restoration works take place and to preserve the original materials wherever possible.
“If a lantern cannot be repaired for future use, permission has not been given for sale or for it to be given away.
“We have raised this with Colas as an extremely worrying incident and they have assured us they will be looking into how this happened as a matter of urgency. They have also confirmed all lanterns they have taken down are being stored safely.
“Our thanks go to the member of the public who returned the lanterns to us as soon as they understood they had been given them in error.”