Chelmsford lights - Big businesses waste energy

Big businesses in Chelmsford seem keen to throw money away as they waste energy.

The decision to turn off Chelmsford’s street lights after midnight in a bid to keep costs down has been highly controversial, and even now, several weeks after the switch off started, there are still calls for the decision to be reversed.

The argument is that by having no street lights, though a cost saving, increases the risk of crime in and around Chelmsford. Even as a strapping bloke of 6’1″, it feels eerie walking through streets that are so dark you’re unable to see what’s around you.

Fortunately I never experience this much. My social life rarely extends beyond midnight, and the rare occasions that it does, I live fairly close to town and remain fairly unaffected by it all. In theory, the decision to turn the lights off is correct, though in practical terms it would surely make more sense to do it at a time of night when even fewer people are walking home. Chelmsford doesn’t have a vibrant bar or club scene, but it’s not uncommon, certainly on weekends, to have large numbers of people leaving town in the early hours.

However, I’m getting off track. As I mentioned, the idea itself is sound. By turning lights off, both money and energy are saved. Yet you can take a walk down Chelmsford High Street and there are shops that are fully illuminated even in the early hours of the morning.

Take Debenhams. They occupy the vast majority of the busy part of the High Street, and the store stretches quite some way back. Most of the windows have displays in them, but peer through the door when they are closed and you will see that the entire ground floor has all of its lights on. Now, I appreciate that the bill for this comes to Debenhams, and that as a retail store they want their products displayed to passers by. However, the issue I have is that there are large parts of the store lit up which can’t be seen clearly from the street. I could understand lights on for the window displays, and even to highlight something relatively in the foreground, but there’s no need to waste electricity shining spotlights on clothing that is 50 metres back.

Debenhams are not the only ones. TSB had their lights on leading up an internal staircase, and HSBC - who advertise the majority of their wares in their window - felt the need to have almost every light on over both floors.

These companies surely have no need for these lights to be on, and as a City we should all be pulling together to do what we can to reduce down our carbon footprint. I can only imagine the outcry if the Essex County Council offices were left illuminated, but even these large companies should be held to account in some way for their waste energy.

The following photos were taken on two separate evenings, a few weeks apart, and show the regular shops that have the vast majority of their lights on at night. I purposely left out any shops that were late closing (McDonalds, for example) or had staff noticeably visible (Next on one occasion had a cleaner in, but on two other occasions was empty)

Chelmsford at night - Halifax and Santander

Santander and Halifax illuminated top and bottom.

Chelmsford at night - Debenhams

Debenhams with the first floor lights on.

Chelmsford at night - Debenhams

Chelmsford at night - Debenhams

Chelmsford at night - Lloyds Bank

Lloyds Bank, with lights on upstairs and down.

Chelmsford at night - RBS


Chelmsford at night - Clintons and Carphone Warehouse

Clintons and Carphone Warehouse, the latter with three floors fully lit up. Note Claire’s to the right, in relative darkness.

Chelmsford at night - Lakeland


Chelmsford at night - Next


Chelmsford at night - Costa

Costa have the right idea - An illuminated sign, and the rest of the shop in darkness.

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