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?
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.