Illuminating the Public Realm

There are broadly three types of lighting in town centres:

  • Street lighting for safety and convenience – generally the responsibility of the local authority Highways department. Find out who is responsible in your area and develop a relationship to ensure that you can influence any changes that may be planned, for example, by local Police to reduce ‘dark spots’ where illicit activity may occur.

  • Decorative or festive lighting for special occasions such as Christmas or Diwali.

  • Public and architectural lighting used to accentuate important buildings, spaces, monuments or generally places of interest.


A common step is to develop and/or influence a local public realm lighting strategy which can both add to the appeal and safety of a town centre at night. It is also worth bearing in mind the environmental footprint of the lighting in your town and taking advantage of advances in technology for low voltage, long life, low maintenance installations.


You can engage with private landowners to attempt them to uplight their own buildings at night to create an attractive, safe, 'alive-after-five' environment. It may be an interesting exercise to conduct your own night time lighting review and try to bring people together on the back of the findings. A lighting strategy can help bring a sense of animation to a town centre during the evening; Light Nights, such as those in Leeds or Liverpool, are fantastic events blending lighting, art, music and food in the ultimate celebration of illumination within the public realm.