Pitch black streets were scary

Whitmore Way before the blackout

Whitmore Way after midnight

Fryerns Library with all its lights on after midnight

Hornbeam Way after the lights were switched off

First published in News by

I THOUGHT I knew what to expect when I did a walkabout around south Essex after the sun went down.

After all, we have all seen darkness. How wrong I was.

I arrived in Basildon at 11.30pm on Saturday night.

Everything was perfectly visible, as you would expect, the roads easy to drive on and, more importantly, the potholes lit up.

But there were some questions raised even before the clock struck midnight, such as why Five Bells roundabout was completely in darkness.

Drivers struggled to navigate it, with many slowing down so they could read the signs.

Given County Hall, which is behind the street light switch-off, wanted to keep the lights on at main junctions, it seemed stupid for such an important roundabout to be plunged into darkness before the specified time.

Come midnight and many streets vanished into darkness – it reminded me of a graveyard.

Many of the main streets were kept lit around the town centre, and those turned off were helpfully lit up by large buildings, such as multi-storey car parks.

However, it was a totally different story for residential roads.

Hornbeam Way was terrible.

With no lights whatsoever, I stopped at the entrance simply not willing to walk where I could barely see my hands in front of my face.

A torch would have given me no comfort, except perhaps as a weapon had the worst happened.

Residents in Whitmore Way, however, had clearly come up with their own methods of keeping their streets as lit as possible, many putting their outside lights on and paying for the privilege of doing so.

Interestingly, Whitmore Way threw up lots of questions. For example, why Fryerns library, run by County Hall, was lit up like a beacon. I somehow doubt a reading group was there at 1am.

They were not the only building to remain lit.

While Basildon Council clearly is all in favour of keeping the lights on, I would question the sense in having the Basildon Centre lights on after midnight on a Saturday night.

Also, while Basildon police station is closed late at night, surely it makes sense for the street lights to remain on there?

Apparently not!

After speaking to Basildon Council, Stuart Sullivan, who is responsible for resources, said the centre’s lights were left on for security reasons as well as for officers who were working in the building. They also said many of the lights were sensor operated.

Despite asking Essex County Council why they kept the lights on in libraries and why Five Bells roundabout was in darkness before midnight, I got no reply.

My trip out has made me think more than ever how unsafe it must feel, and indeed is on occasions, to walk home alone after a night out. On the whole, would I feel safe walking anywhere with street lights turned off? The answer is most definitely no.

Comments (24)

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11:35am Thu 20 Mar 14

Barry Bas says...

It's not that bad then if the comparison photos of Whitmore Way are anything to go by.

I would like to see photos of the smaller side streets with lights on then the lights off as that would give a truer picture of what it is like. There is so much light coming from other sources in the Whitmore Way photo, I'm sure this isn't the case in all streets.

Also why couldn't they stand in the same place for the lights on and lights off photo? It gives it a totally different look with the bus stop filling more of the frame.
It's not that bad then if the comparison photos of Whitmore Way are anything to go by. I would like to see photos of the smaller side streets with lights on then the lights off as that would give a truer picture of what it is like. There is so much light coming from other sources in the Whitmore Way photo, I'm sure this isn't the case in all streets. Also why couldn't they stand in the same place for the lights on and lights off photo? It gives it a totally different look with the bus stop filling more of the frame. Barry Bas
  • Score: 7

12:09pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Ian P says...

"Residents in Whitmore Way, however, had clearly come up with their own methods of keeping their streets as lit as possible, many putting their outside lights on and paying for the privilege of doing so". They are paying for the privilege twice actually. They have already paid for the street lights to be on in the ECC share of the council tax for this financial year. Utility providers have to pay compensation when they fail to supply the service they are charging for, so why is ECC not paying compensation for their failure to supply street lighting which has been paid for?
"Residents in Whitmore Way, however, had clearly come up with their own methods of keeping their streets as lit as possible, many putting their outside lights on and paying for the privilege of doing so". They are paying for the privilege twice actually. They have already paid for the street lights to be on in the ECC share of the council tax for this financial year. Utility providers have to pay compensation when they fail to supply the service they are charging for, so why is ECC not paying compensation for their failure to supply street lighting which has been paid for? Ian P
  • Score: 24

12:10pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Maya Pinnion says...

Five bells lights have been off for some time
Five bells lights have been off for some time Maya Pinnion
  • Score: 0

12:17pm Thu 20 Mar 14

carnmountyouknowitmakessense says...

They would find it more economical, to fit high powered security lighting, comes on when someone approaches the building.
They would find it more economical, to fit high powered security lighting, comes on when someone approaches the building. carnmountyouknowitmakessense
  • Score: -9

12:48pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Leetheshrimper says...

I work nights and coming back home to walk the dog in pitch blackness in berry lane is a eye opener I must say ,I better eat more carrots
I work nights and coming back home to walk the dog in pitch blackness in berry lane is a eye opener I must say ,I better eat more carrots Leetheshrimper
  • Score: 14

1:45pm Thu 20 Mar 14

LinfordsLunchbox says...

They were so quick to turn them off and line their grubby pockets that they have used no logic - just turned asmuch as they can off, leaving some roads in total blackout and other hardly looking any different, with big buildings that waste the most still lit
They were so quick to turn them off and line their grubby pockets that they have used no logic - just turned asmuch as they can off, leaving some roads in total blackout and other hardly looking any different, with big buildings that waste the most still lit LinfordsLunchbox
  • Score: 11

2:04pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Ageing Commuter says...

I wonder if all ECC Councillors live in either Southend or Thurrock? As they are both Unitary Authorities, they control their own Street Lights and they are leaving them on after midnight. I bet they don't have to move around afer midnight in the dark. Perhaps when the County Council elections come around again, we should vote out all those Idiot ECC Councillors who voted for the BIg Switchoff. Shouldn't be too hard to find out who they are.
I wonder if all ECC Councillors live in either Southend or Thurrock? As they are both Unitary Authorities, they control their own Street Lights and they are leaving them on after midnight. I bet they don't have to move around afer midnight in the dark. Perhaps when the County Council elections come around again, we should vote out all those Idiot ECC Councillors who voted for the BIg Switchoff. Shouldn't be too hard to find out who they are. Ageing Commuter
  • Score: 14

2:09pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Jack222 says...

Basildon after 11.30 with the lights on is equally scary.

WE don't need the lights on, we need to save money. If you want the lights on go home earlier! Why should the taxpayers have to waste their tax so drunks can go home in the light?
Basildon after 11.30 with the lights on is equally scary. WE don't need the lights on, we need to save money. If you want the lights on go home earlier! Why should the taxpayers have to waste their tax so drunks can go home in the light? Jack222
  • Score: -27

2:56pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Living the La Vida Legra says...

Bring it to Leigh on sea. Brilliant idea
Bring it to Leigh on sea. Brilliant idea Living the La Vida Legra
  • Score: 4

3:38pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Nebs says...

All Basildon needs to do is get a purple flag, then everyone will be safe at night.
All Basildon needs to do is get a purple flag, then everyone will be safe at night. Nebs
  • Score: 1

4:29pm Thu 20 Mar 14

LinfordsLunchbox says...

Jack222 wrote:
Basildon after 11.30 with the lights on is equally scary.

WE don't need the lights on, we need to save money. If you want the lights on go home earlier! Why should the taxpayers have to waste their tax so drunks can go home in the light?
You pay the same tax wether they are on or off, they wont start making a saving until they have been off for 7 years and its shift-workers who have to travel on broken pavements and people who live in the darkened areas that are more likely to be burgled as a result, take your head out of your backside
[quote][p][bold]Jack222[/bold] wrote: Basildon after 11.30 with the lights on is equally scary. WE don't need the lights on, we need to save money. If you want the lights on go home earlier! Why should the taxpayers have to waste their tax so drunks can go home in the light?[/p][/quote]You pay the same tax wether they are on or off, they wont start making a saving until they have been off for 7 years and its shift-workers who have to travel on broken pavements and people who live in the darkened areas that are more likely to be burgled as a result, take your head out of your backside LinfordsLunchbox
  • Score: 10

5:43pm Thu 20 Mar 14

I hate the police! says...

Don't bother me. Im in bed between those hours!
Don't bother me. Im in bed between those hours! I hate the police!
  • Score: -3

6:31pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Dan-Hockley says...

I live in a street where our lights have been turned off and I've noticed 3 things:

Firstly, when I get up to go for a pee in the night, I need to put a light on inside the house

Secondly, how beautiful all the stars are!

Thirdly, my security lights are more obvious when there is less ambient light so are probably a bigger deterrent.
I live in a street where our lights have been turned off and I've noticed 3 things: Firstly, when I get up to go for a pee in the night, I need to put a light on inside the house Secondly, how beautiful all the stars are! Thirdly, my security lights are more obvious when there is less ambient light so are probably a bigger deterrent. Dan-Hockley
  • Score: 2

8:07pm Thu 20 Mar 14

_Lotus_ says...

Jack222 wrote:
Basildon after 11.30 with the lights on is equally scary.

WE don't need the lights on, we need to save money. If you want the lights on go home earlier! Why should the taxpayers have to waste their tax so drunks can go home in the light?
Yes, we do need lights on after midnight. go back to your pit, you obviously never have worked shifts.
[quote][p][bold]Jack222[/bold] wrote: Basildon after 11.30 with the lights on is equally scary. WE don't need the lights on, we need to save money. If you want the lights on go home earlier! Why should the taxpayers have to waste their tax so drunks can go home in the light?[/p][/quote]Yes, we do need lights on after midnight. go back to your pit, you obviously never have worked shifts. _Lotus_
  • Score: 6

10:52pm Thu 20 Mar 14

DavidPreston says...

It puzzles me that we can light up our Gardens with LED Solar lights, yet the Council can't do the same with Street lights. Get Solar Panels on every street light and they will make the Council money to pay for the lighting. Ok theres a cost in the implementation, but over the years the savings will stack up
It puzzles me that we can light up our Gardens with LED Solar lights, yet the Council can't do the same with Street lights. Get Solar Panels on every street light and they will make the Council money to pay for the lighting. Ok theres a cost in the implementation, but over the years the savings will stack up DavidPreston
  • Score: 4

11:50pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Mumfie says...

One of the worst policies adopted by a Council that are totally inept when it comes to public safety and services.
We are still paying the same amount of council tax. People here do not want it. People in other parts of the UK don't want it. It is unsafe for a whole multitude of reasons and it will leave Essex CC and other councils facing inevitable law suits.
Councils should remember that they are civil servants. Turn the lights back on now, gradually replace with Energy efficient LED bulbs that are 90% more efficient to run, and last many times longer than normal bulbs. If they say these are too expensive, then ask Essex CC how much it cost to put the spikes on virtually every street lamp in the county?
I would also like to ask why I frequently see street lights on during daylight hours?
This needs to be sorted as a matter of priority, and I suggest that if lights are not switched back on in full during the hours of darkness which they have currently been switched off, then you all vote in forthcoming elections for councillors who will get them switched back on.
One of the worst policies adopted by a Council that are totally inept when it comes to public safety and services. We are still paying the same amount of council tax. People here do not want it. People in other parts of the UK don't want it. It is unsafe for a whole multitude of reasons and it will leave Essex CC and other councils facing inevitable law suits. Councils should remember that they are civil servants. Turn the lights back on now, gradually replace with Energy efficient LED bulbs that are 90% more efficient to run, and last many times longer than normal bulbs. If they say these are too expensive, then ask Essex CC how much it cost to put the spikes on virtually every street lamp in the county? I would also like to ask why I frequently see street lights on during daylight hours? This needs to be sorted as a matter of priority, and I suggest that if lights are not switched back on in full during the hours of darkness which they have currently been switched off, then you all vote in forthcoming elections for councillors who will get them switched back on. Mumfie
  • Score: 6

10:13am Fri 21 Mar 14

J Arthur Rank says...

I hate the police! wrote:
Don't bother me. Im in bed between those hours!
Under curfew no doubt.
[quote][p][bold]I hate the police![/bold] wrote: Don't bother me. Im in bed between those hours![/p][/quote]Under curfew no doubt. J Arthur Rank
  • Score: 0

10:13am Fri 21 Mar 14

J Arthur Rank says...

I hate the police! wrote:
Don't bother me. Im in bed between those hours!
Under curfew no doubt.
[quote][p][bold]I hate the police![/bold] wrote: Don't bother me. Im in bed between those hours![/p][/quote]Under curfew no doubt. J Arthur Rank
  • Score: 4

12:29pm Fri 21 Mar 14

Ian P says...

DavidPreston wrote:
It puzzles me that we can light up our Gardens with LED Solar lights, yet the Council can't do the same with Street lights. Get Solar Panels on every street light and they will make the Council money to pay for the lighting. Ok theres a cost in the implementation, but over the years the savings will stack up
Oh the council does not worry about cost, it is not their money afterall. They spent £6.5mil just to turn the lights off.
[quote][p][bold]DavidPreston[/bold] wrote: It puzzles me that we can light up our Gardens with LED Solar lights, yet the Council can't do the same with Street lights. Get Solar Panels on every street light and they will make the Council money to pay for the lighting. Ok theres a cost in the implementation, but over the years the savings will stack up[/p][/quote]Oh the council does not worry about cost, it is not their money afterall. They spent £6.5mil just to turn the lights off. Ian P
  • Score: 3

12:37pm Fri 21 Mar 14

Ian P says...

LinfordsLunchbox wrote:
Jack222 wrote: Basildon after 11.30 with the lights on is equally scary. WE don't need the lights on, we need to save money. If you want the lights on go home earlier! Why should the taxpayers have to waste their tax so drunks can go home in the light?
You pay the same tax wether they are on or off, they wont start making a saving until they have been off for 7 years and its shift-workers who have to travel on broken pavements and people who live in the darkened areas that are more likely to be burgled as a result, take your head out of your backside
Actually it will take considerably longer than 7 years to start making a pofit. They spent £6.5mil to enable the lights to be switched off and they are quoting £1mil per annum save, once all areas have their lights switched off. However, this does not reflec the cost of borrowing money and/or loss of interest on any money they took from the reserves to fund the £6.5mil. A time adjusted rate of return calculation is unlikely to show a profit until sometime in year 9 I suspect. No private company would make such a substantial investment on such a poor TARR if saving money/making profit is the sole justification for the action.
[quote][p][bold]LinfordsLunchbox[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Jack222[/bold] wrote: Basildon after 11.30 with the lights on is equally scary. WE don't need the lights on, we need to save money. If you want the lights on go home earlier! Why should the taxpayers have to waste their tax so drunks can go home in the light?[/p][/quote]You pay the same tax wether they are on or off, they wont start making a saving until they have been off for 7 years and its shift-workers who have to travel on broken pavements and people who live in the darkened areas that are more likely to be burgled as a result, take your head out of your backside[/p][/quote]Actually it will take considerably longer than 7 years to start making a pofit. They spent £6.5mil to enable the lights to be switched off and they are quoting £1mil per annum save, once all areas have their lights switched off. However, this does not reflec the cost of borrowing money and/or loss of interest on any money they took from the reserves to fund the £6.5mil. A time adjusted rate of return calculation is unlikely to show a profit until sometime in year 9 I suspect. No private company would make such a substantial investment on such a poor TARR if saving money/making profit is the sole justification for the action. Ian P
  • Score: 0

5:13pm Fri 21 Mar 14

tricklesthegreek says...

If they told us they were turning lights off to tackle pollution I might, just might buy it. But to save money - absolute codswallop. Just switch them back on and stop ruining things for shift workers and making things easier for burglars and other toerags to get up to no good.
If they told us they were turning lights off to tackle pollution I might, just might buy it. But to save money - absolute codswallop. Just switch them back on and stop ruining things for shift workers and making things easier for burglars and other toerags to get up to no good. tricklesthegreek
  • Score: 1

5:15pm Fri 21 Mar 14

Ageing Commuter says...

Mumfie wrote:
One of the worst policies adopted by a Council that are totally inept when it comes to public safety and services.
We are still paying the same amount of council tax. People here do not want it. People in other parts of the UK don't want it. It is unsafe for a whole multitude of reasons and it will leave Essex CC and other councils facing inevitable law suits.
Councils should remember that they are civil servants. Turn the lights back on now, gradually replace with Energy efficient LED bulbs that are 90% more efficient to run, and last many times longer than normal bulbs. If they say these are too expensive, then ask Essex CC how much it cost to put the spikes on virtually every street lamp in the county?
I would also like to ask why I frequently see street lights on during daylight hours?
This needs to be sorted as a matter of priority, and I suggest that if lights are not switched back on in full during the hours of darkness which they have currently been switched off, then you all vote in forthcoming elections for councillors who will get them switched back on.
I would suggest movement sensors on each batch of lights that switch on when they detect movement, as they have in some buildings but on reflection with the number of Cats, Foxes and other nocturnal creatures we now have 'patrolling' our streets at night it will be like the proverbail 70's DIsco with the bloody things switching on and off every 2 minutes. It will be like trying to sleep in a lightning storm.
[quote][p][bold]Mumfie[/bold] wrote: One of the worst policies adopted by a Council that are totally inept when it comes to public safety and services. We are still paying the same amount of council tax. People here do not want it. People in other parts of the UK don't want it. It is unsafe for a whole multitude of reasons and it will leave Essex CC and other councils facing inevitable law suits. Councils should remember that they are civil servants. Turn the lights back on now, gradually replace with Energy efficient LED bulbs that are 90% more efficient to run, and last many times longer than normal bulbs. If they say these are too expensive, then ask Essex CC how much it cost to put the spikes on virtually every street lamp in the county? I would also like to ask why I frequently see street lights on during daylight hours? This needs to be sorted as a matter of priority, and I suggest that if lights are not switched back on in full during the hours of darkness which they have currently been switched off, then you all vote in forthcoming elections for councillors who will get them switched back on.[/p][/quote]I would suggest movement sensors on each batch of lights that switch on when they detect movement, as they have in some buildings but on reflection with the number of Cats, Foxes and other nocturnal creatures we now have 'patrolling' our streets at night it will be like the proverbail 70's DIsco with the bloody things switching on and off every 2 minutes. It will be like trying to sleep in a lightning storm. Ageing Commuter
  • Score: 1

7:55pm Fri 21 Mar 14

exBillericayDicky says...

"...I stopped at the entrance simply not willing to walk where I could barely see my hands in front of my face"

Think this writer has a major cataract problem as you can easily see hands in front of your face in anything short of a sealed enclosure. This over exaggeration can only harm the case for leaving the lights on
"...I stopped at the entrance simply not willing to walk where I could barely see my hands in front of my face" Think this writer has a major cataract problem as you can easily see hands in front of your face in anything short of a sealed enclosure. This over exaggeration can only harm the case for leaving the lights on exBillericayDicky
  • Score: 0

8:33am Sat 22 Mar 14

carnmountyouknowitmakessense says...

Remember reading of the Blitz spirit ? the black out gives one a new perspective
Remember reading of the Blitz spirit ? the black out gives one a new perspective carnmountyouknowitmakessense
  • Score: -1

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