A CONTROVERSIAL new blue lighting scheme for Southampton’s iconic Itchen Bridge will be switched on tonight.

The landmark 1970s bridge will turned into a beacon as it is bathed in pale blue light.

The lighting scheme is part of a massive £1m-plus overhaul of the 62,000-tonne bridge which has seen street lights replaced with 34 new white-light columns that also emit blue LED background light.

City transport boss Councillor Daniel Fitzhenry said the bridge would look “fantastic”.

Most city residents backed the idea when it was first unveiled in the Daily Echo in February. But some questioned the £100,000 spent on the scheme from bridge tolls when the council is facing a cash crisis and having to cut workers’ pay.

And many were left wondering why the city council was proposing to bathe the 1970s landmark in the blue colours of south coast rivals Portsmouth, urging bosses to consider a rethink. However, the council said red lights were met with objections from the Civil Aviation Authority and Network Rail.

The council says the white light used on the bridge will be clearer and more environmentally friendly, with less glare and light pollution. It will also be 20 per cent more efficient, saving the authority £1,250 a year in energy costs.

Cllr Fitzhenry said: “As a gateway to the city it is important that the lighting looks good, saves money and is environmentally friendly.

“This scheme delivers on all counts. Top-quality city gateways not only provide a big boost to the economy, they also install pride in residents.”

The lighting is being installed as part of a £28.5m contract with Southern Electric Contracting to replace around half the road signs, bollards and orange street lamps in Southampton. Lights in Peartree and Bevois have already been replaced.

Engineers were called in to improve the safety of the bridge after more than three decades of use by up to 19,000 drivers a day.

City artists called for the drab grey bridge to be transformed into various different forms of colour, light and moving art in a bid to rival the appeal of the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, Humber Bridge in Hull and Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland.

• The Itchen Bridge will be lit up from 9pm.