Chichester businesses urged to switch off their lights when they close

Green and Liberal Democrat councillors have urged Chichester District Council to support a campaign calling on businesses to switch off their lights when closed.

The Switch Off The Lights campaign, run by Oliver English, has been working within the community to persuade shops and firms to ‘switch off their lights to save energy and encourage dark skies’.

During a meeting of the full council, a statement from Mr English was read out, appealing for support from the council.

He was backed by Liberal Democrat leader Adrian Moss, who praised the ‘significant progress’ being made by the campaign, which reported that more than 350 shops had ‘gone dark’.

Campaigners are calling on businesses to switch off their lights to help reduce energy use and emissions

Mr Moss asked leader Eileen Lintill to join him in pledging support from the council and to continue the campaign across the district.

While recognising that it was sensible to have some lights on, he added: “Some of the lights that are left on in Chichester aren’t left on because it’s necessary – and it is damaging to the dark skies and it doesn’t, in many cases, enhance the community.”

Sarah Sharp (Green, Chichester South) agreed, pointing out that there was also an issue with lights being left on in public buildings.

In his statement, Mr English described how independent shops such as Kim’s Bookshop and Present Surprise, both in South Street, had gone dark, with chains such as Montezuma’s, Paperchase, White Stuff, Crew Clothing, Robert Dyas and Charles Clinkard doing the same.

But he pointed out that banks – apart from Barclays – and the city’s estate agents were always well lit.

Asking the council for its support – and whether a policy about lighting could be included in the Local Plan – he said he would like to see the Switch Off The Lights campaign expanded to Midhurst, Petworth and along the coast.

Mr English added: “One councillor has described this as ‘small beers’ compared to others – but this is still some action rather than no action.

“Enough small beers and we have a party.”

While no real offer of support was forthcoming from the council, Susan Taylor, cabinet member for planning, said a lighting policy had been included in the 2018 Preferred Approach Local Plan, covering the need to ensure that light spill was minimised in sensitive areas.

Mrs Taylor said the policy would be developed through the Local Plan Review ‘to continue to provide protection to those sensitive designations within the Chichester Plan Area’.

As for the idea of the persuading shops to go dark, she said: “In a high street setting, we would be encouraging businesses to set their window lights on a timer so that they go off after 11pm.

“A more vibrant street scene is needed in the evenings to support our evening and night-time economy.

“For many businesses who may not be open in the evening, lighting their window displays is a key marketing tool, however we would discourage lighting other than in display windows.

“During the Christmas season, this would be particularly important and we understand that the Chichester BiD encourage businesses to keep their display window lights on in the evening at that time of year.”