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PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:48 pm 
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In September, David wrote:
A trial switch-off commenced in the largely rural districts of Maldon and Uttlesford in 2007 and after being declared a success, the city of Chelmsford and Braintree town were switched off on September 1st. Colchester and Basildon will follow on November 1st, Clacton will follow on January 1st 2014 (that'll come as a shock to those returning from New Year's Eve parties!) and Harlow's lights will be switched off on February 1st 2014.

In the end, Colchester residents had to wait a month longer than expected before part-night lighting came into effect, after the policy was twice challenged  by opposition councillors, delaying its introduction twice, and by two weeks in each case. This pushed back the switch-off date to December 1st.

In nearby Braintree and in the city of Chelmsford, the street lighting was scheduled to be switched off on September 1st, and again this was met with stiff local opposition, but it eventually went ahead on September 16th:

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Daphne Close in Great Notley (near Braintree) photographed in October 2013, after part-night lighting was introduced.

This area of Great Notley wasn't built when Essex last saw part-night lighting in the 1980s, but many of its residents will still remember those days, and also remember that it wasn't a blanket switch-off as currently being introduced by Essex County Council. Instead, about one-in-three or one-in-four street lights (usually those situated on bends or at junctions) were kept on all night.

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Cuckoo Way in Great Notley, also photographed in October 2013.

Cuckoo Way has fewer domestic properties fronting it, and with less porch lights to guide the way and less sky-glow, the stars become visible. The orange glow crossing the road in the distance is from street lighting in an alley way leading off from Chatsworth Avenue. Street lighting in alley ways is currently not switched off for safety reasons.

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Lastly a photo of Charlecote Road in Great Notley, also photographed in October 2013, and even with porch lights switched on, the number of stars in the sky is amazing!

Meanwhile in Colchester, the originally scheduled switch-off date of November 1st descended into farce after maps showing which street lights were scheduled for switch-off weren't published until the day the scheduled switch-off was meant to start, leaving residents with no right of reply and making a sham of the so-called "consultation period" according to opposition councillors.

Until then, residents were only able to make an educated guess as to if their street lighting was going to be on or off from the exception criteria published on Essex County Council's web site. The switch-off date of November 1st was pushed back until November 18th accordingly, to allow councillors and residents to study the maps and register their opposition.

Needless to add, the maps came as a shock to many people, especially those who remember what Essex County Council said when they started trialling part-night lighting in Maldon and Uttlesford in 2007 (that no street lighting within a mile's radius of the town centre would be switched off). The Gazette newspaper published the map below in this article about the street lighting switch-off.

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A map of Colchester published by the Colchester Gazette after it consulted the maps of the proposed street lighting switch-off published by Essex County Council.

The map shows the central area of Colchester, and showed that even some parts of Colchester town centre would be plunged into darkness alongside many arterial roads that are lined with commercial premises. The Gazette also highlighted some inconsistently applied policies, for example street lighting should have been scheduled to stay on in roads covered by Colchester Borough Council's CCTV network, in roads with a high concentration of business premises and on footpaths.

This led to plenty of calls to reconsider a number of these decisions, and the switch-off was delayed by a further two weeks to allow enough time for concessions to be made to the plan. Councillors won a number of concessions - alley ways and arterial roads were the big winners.

The publication of the maps enabled me to look at plans for the Dutch Quarter of Colchester town centre (where I live) for the first time. The Dutch Quarter is the area bounded by St. Peter's Street to the north and the High Street to the south in the above map.

When I moved here in 2005, the vast majority of the street lighting in this largely residential quarter of the town centre was Phosco P111s running 35W SOX lamps on fluted Stewart and Lloyd columns. As these columns have reached the end of their lives over the intervening years, they have been replaced with Phosco P111s running 70W SON lamps on Corus and later Fabrikat columns.

It has been a gradual process, but SON lanterns now hold the dominant position:

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Plans of the Dutch Quarter from 2005 to 2013, showing the gradual replacement of 35W SOX lanterns with 70W SON lanterns.

Once replacement of all the 35W SOX lanterns is completed in the next decade or so, the Dutch Quarter could be using just as much electricity to run 70W SON lanterns on a part-night basis as it was using for 35W SOX lanterns running all night long!


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An extract of Essex County Council's street-lighting switch-off plan showing the Dutch Quarter, as published on their web site.

On the above map, the locations coloured yellow retain full-night lighting (notably Colchester High Street at the bottom of the extract), and the locations coloured green were originally scheduled for part-night lighting. This was despite a number of the streets in the Dutch Quarter being covered by Colchester Borough Council's CCTV network, alongside roads with a high concentration of business premises (notably St. Peter's Street, at the top of the extract) and footpaths between trafficked roads.

Although the street lighting switch-off did eventually begin in Colchester on December 1st, and the purple flag on the town hall (which signifies how safe the town is to visit at night) was lowered to half-mast in sympathy*, it turns out that parts of the Dutch Quarter, including my road (St. Peter's Street) are in fact still under review. This means that sometime in the future the lights that currently go off in my street at midnight may start staying on all night, or those that currently, and inexplicably, stay on all night may start to go off!

* This didn't actually happen, although the Council may struggle to retain its purple flag next year as a result of part-night lighting.

Below are two photos of St. Peter's Street. Puzzlingly (as hinted above) some of the street lighting in my road currently stays on whilst the rest go off, and there seems to be no pattern to it. The street lights that do stay on seem rather random and are arguably no help to Colchester Council's CCTV operators.

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A long view of St. Peter's Street looking west to east, as photographed in December 2013. The first street lantern is a bowled Philips SGS203, the second a Philips MI26 and the rest are post-top Phosco P111s.

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The same view after midnight, also photographed in December 2013. Inexplicably, the lanterns on the third, eighth and ninth columns remain lit.

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There appears to be a blanket switch-off in the rest of the Dutch Quarter, although with so many one-way streets in this Tudor-built neighbourhood, the many sign lights take over, creating the fluorescent glow in West Stockwell Street shown here. Photograph taken in December 2013.

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Looking towards the High Street (as here in Short Cut Road), the glow of the street lighting that stays on all night can be seen. Photograph taken in December 2013.

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Lastly, here's the view outside my home before the lights go out. My building has a 70W SONPAK-style flood light illuminating the entrance to the underground car park, the same wattage as the P111 on the pavement outside. Photograph taken in December 2013.

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And the same view after midnight. The lanterns on columns eight and nine inexplicably remain lit, with a further SONPAK-style flood light on a commercial property further up the road adding extra light. Photograph taken in December 2013.

So in a policy change that I never thought would be reversed when it was adopted in the 1980s, I am now back to living under the part-night lighting I last experienced as a 10-year-old!


Last edited by David on Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 2:36 am 
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David wrote:
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Lastly a photo of Charlecote Road in Great Notley, also photographed in October 2013, and even with porch lights switched on, the number of stars in the sky is amazing!


I can make out Orion in this photo, up in Calderdale even with the glare of a 35W  SOX Phillips MI55 splilling into my garden I can still see the night sky.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:14 am 
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Those are some fantastic photos which contain the night sky! I'm guessing your camera has a function with very high light sensitivity and long exposure for these night shots....

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 9:10 am 
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BLUE stars?  :o  Error code with Sky: SWITCH #0


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:01 pm 
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mazeteam wrote:
Those are some fantastic photos which contain the night sky! I'm guessing your camera has a function with very high light sensitivity and long exposure for these night shots....

Thank you mazeteam! Although my pictures were taken with a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR), I think many of today's smaller cameras would be capable of capturing an unlit street at night. If you put my now very old Canon Powershot S3is (from early 2006) into manual mode, you can make it take a fifteen-second exposure at the lens's widest aperture of f/2.7, which would be enough to capture an unlit street at night.

The pictures above were taken at 30 seconds at f/2.8 (longer exposure, but slightly less light getting into my DSLR, as lower f numbers like f/2.7 let in more light than higher f numbers like f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4 etc).

If you want to give it a try, put your camera in manual mode, select the longest available exposure, the widest possible lens aperture (smallest f number) and the lowest light sensitivity to begin with (usually ISO100), to see what happens. You'll need to support the camera in some way, e.g. on a utilities box that adorns some pavements, a garden wall or a tripod, and set a shutter delay on the camera (the setting which takes a picture a few seconds after you press the shutter - usually to allow the camera owner time to get in a group shot, but on this occasion it's needed to make sure you aren't touching the camera when the photo is being taken).

The reason I suggest starting with the lowest light sensitivity is that the picture quality progressively deteriorates with higher light sensitivities (ISO800, ISO1600, ISO3200 etc), so you'd want to know the lowest light sensitivity you can get away with to ensure the best picture quality.

J T wrote:
BLUE stars?  :o  Error code with Sky: SWITCH #0

The stars aren't really blue of course, it's just that the porch lights are 'yellow' by comparison - the circa 2700K of most domestic GLS and CFL bulbs (they only look 'white' to us because our eyes adjust to them and filter out the yellow), and I colour corrected the photo to filter out the yellow in the porch lights, just like our eyes do, and this made the white stars look a little blue!

In September, David wrote:
A trial switch-off commenced in the largely rural districts of Maldon and Uttlesford in 2007 and after being declared a success, the city of Chelmsford and Braintree town were switched off on September 1st. Colchester and Basildon will follow on November 1st, Clacton will follow on January 1st 2014 (that'll come as a shock to those returning from New Year's Eve parties!) and Harlow's lights will be switched off on February 1st 2014.

The Tendring area of Essex (which includes Clacton and Harwich) has had its street lighting switch-off delayed from January 1st to a now unspecified date, again due to the unavailability of maps showing which locations will be lit and which locations unlit. So there won't be a nasty shock for those inebriated residents staggering home after New Year's Eve parties after all! The maps will not be ready for viewing by the public until early January 2014, which was after the planned date of the switch-off.

A similar problem forced Colchester's street lighting switch-off back by a month, even though it originally appeared that Essex County Council wanted the lights to go off and the maps to be published at the same time!


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2013 3:00 pm 
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Thanks for clearing that up David. Great picture BTW!


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 2:23 am 
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David wrote:
mazeteam wrote:
Those are some fantastic photos which contain the night sky! I'm guessing your camera has a function with very high light sensitivity and long exposure for these night shots....

Thank you mazeteam! Although my pictures were taken with a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR), I think many of today's smaller cameras would be capable of capturing an unlit street at night. If you put my now very old Canon Powershot S3is (from early 2006) into manual mode, you can make it take a fifteen-second exposure at the lens's widest aperture of f/2.7, which would be enough to capture an unlit street at night.

The pictures above were taken at 30 seconds at f/2.8 (longer exposure, but slightly less light getting into my DSLR, as lower f numbers like f/2.7 let in more light than higher f numbers like f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4 etc).

If you want to give it a try, put your camera in manual mode, select the longest available exposure, the widest possible lens aperture (smallest f number) and the lowest light sensitivity to begin with (usually ISO100), to see what happens. You'll need to support the camera in some way, e.g. on a utilities box that adorns some pavements, a garden wall or a tripod, and set a shutter delay on the camera (the setting which takes a picture a few seconds after you press the shutter - usually to allow the camera owner time to get in a group shot, but on this occasion it's needed to make sure you aren't touching the camera when the photo is being taken).

The reason I suggest starting with the lowest light sensitivity is that the picture quality progressively deteriorates with higher light sensitivities (ISO800, ISO1600, ISO3200 etc), so you'd want to know the lowest light sensitivity you can get away with to ensure the best picture quality.


Thanks for the advice... I might be getting a proper camera for my birthday (or a beleated birthday gift, seeing as the 'big day' is only 5 days away on the 2nd), and one of the reasons I want a proper camera is for better night/low-light photos. Whilst my smartphone takes decent photos for what it is (one of the reasons I went for a Sony Ericsson model), fully dark night photos have a fair amount of noise on them, low-light photos can only be taken of objects not moving, and on sunset photos the foreground is blacked out.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 18, 2014 4:45 pm 
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Brilliant pictures there David!  :)

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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 11:16 am 
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I passed through J25 on the A12 yesterday and I counted at least 3, possibly. 4 Alpha 6s . Sadly, I came through during the day so obviously can't say if they still work or not

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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 1:57 pm 
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A13James wrote:
I passed through J25 on the A12 yesterday and I counted at least 3, possibly. 4 Alpha 6s . Sadly, I came through during the day so obviously can't say if they still work or not

It's better than you think - there's actually 7 Alpha Sixes at junction 25 of the A12, and they are all still working!

There's one on the Marks Tey roundabout to the west of the A12, one on Station Road just off this roundabout (column 1), one on the Prince of Wales roundabout to the east of the A12, one on the dual carriageway between the two roundabouts and three on the southbound on-slip from this roundabout (columns 3, 10 and 13). These are old photos, but they're worth sharing again!

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The Alpha Six on Station Road, as photographed in March 2012. If my memory serves me correctly, it has been re-celled for part-night lighting as it falls under Essex County Council's jurisdiction.

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The Alpha Six on the dual carriageway linking the two roundabouts, also photographed in March 2012. The Alpha Six is on the first column on the left hand side. This Alpha Six and both the Alpha Sixes on both roundabouts have not been re-celled for part-night lighting as they fall under the jurisdiction of the Highways Agency.

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Two of the three Alpha Sixes on the southbound slip road onto the A12, also photographed in March 2012. Although only columns 10 and 13 feature in this photograph, all three Alpha Sixes on this slip road have been re-celled for part-night lighting.

Colchester also has six more Alpha Sixes in nightly operation, bringing the total number of Alpha Sixes in the town to 13, which is pretty amazing considering we are in 2014.

There's one on the northbound on-slip onto the A12 at junction 26 which you may have also spotted yesterday. This is Highways Agency property so it has not been re-celled for part-night lighting.

Heading north from junction 26 on the A1124 Halstead Road and just off of the junction, there are two more Alpha Sixes:

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This one, photographed in May 2013, which has been re-celled for part-night lighting.

It used to be one of a cluster of three Alpha Sixes that were originally here, suggesting that the whole road once used to be lit by Alpha Sixes:

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The same location photographed with three Alpha Sixes in 2008.

And here's the other Alpha Six just north of junction 26 of the A12:

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The second Alpha Six on the A1124 Halstead Road, photographed in May 2013.

The three other remaining Alpha Sixes in Colchester are on the Spring Lane roundabout just off of junction 27 of the A12, and all have been re-celled for part-night lighting. One is on the traffic island as you head towards Colchester town centre from this roundabout, another is on Spring Lane (column 2) just off this roundabout, and this one pictured below is on the roundabout itself:

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The last remaining Alpha Six on Colchester's Spring Lane roundabout, photographed in April 2013.

I believe Colchester is the last location in the UK to still be running Alpha Sixes in nightly services, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong!  :lol:


Last edited by David on Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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