Herefordshire Enjoys The Darkest Skies In England
Whilst it is true that the county has the darkest skies in England, this is based on average light levels
When we look at the percentage of pristine night skies, free of light pollution, Herefordshire slips to 3rd on the list with only 60% of truly dark skies. Northumberland is 1st with 72% of pristine dark skies (with a combined average of 87%). Cumbria has 62% of truly dark skies (85% average).
Herefordshire Council deserves to be congratulated on its work in recent years to improve the Herefordshire street lights with LEDs, which has done much to reduce light pollution within the county. Running between 2008 and 2016, the project to replace the majority of the 12,000 council-owned lights with LEDs was completed, with around 9,000 street lights included in a dimming programme. The project has cost £7 million and will save an estimated £16 million in energy and maintenance costs over 20 years. This has been cited as an example of good practice in the new CPRE Night Blight report, which was launched alongside new, interactive maps of England's night skies, to showcase the darkest areas and the extent of light pollution in England.
However, there is room to further improve the quality of Herefordshire night skies. “Councils can reduce light levels through better planning. The benefits of dark skies, for health, education and tourism, are now being recognised.
Benefits Of Dark Skies In Herefordshire
Health - Research shows that light pollution can have a harmful effect on residents and wildlife, including disrupted sleep, and in some cases has driven people to move house. Studies suggest that exposure to light at night can disrupt the body’s production of melatonin, a brain hormone best known for its daily role in resetting the body’s biological clock.
Light pollution also impacts on wildlife, by interrupting natural rhythms including migration, reproduction and feeding patterns.
Tourism - To the south of Herefordshire lies the world’s 5th Dark Sky reserve, in the Brecon Beacons National Park and, with a strong policy on light pollution, Herefordshire itself has the potential to become a haven for dark skies.
For example, the organisation Stargazers Lounge currently chooses Herefordshire for its dark skies to run star parties twice a year. Running for 8 years and located at the Lucksall Caravan Park near Mordiford, about 100 astronomers visit from all parts of the UK. The members comment about the sky glow from Hereford but overall they are happy. However, if the quality of the night sky declines they will move somewhere else. Herefordshire's own Astronomy Society chooses the Madley Environmental Study Centre as an observation point.
Education - What better way to aid childrens' learning of our solar system than to see for themselves the stars in a clear night sky? Madley Environmental Study Centre already performs sterling work education school children about the environment.
What Is Light Pollution?
Light pollution is a generic term referring to excess artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed. In broad terms, there are three types of light pollution:
- Skyglow – the pink or orange glow we see for miles around towns and cities, spreading deep into the countryside, caused by a scattering of artificial light by airborne dust and water droplets.
- Glare – the uncomfortable brightness of a light source.
- Light intrusion – light spilling beyond the boundary of the property on which a light is located, sometimes shining through windows and curtains
“Our view of the stars is obscured by artificial light. Many children in urban areas may not have seen the Milky Way, our own galaxy, due to the veil of light that spreads across their night skies.
What You Can Do.
Individuals and businesses, whether in an urban or rural environment, can also consider the impact of their lighting schemes on the quality of life for others.
Relish the dark and celebrate the inky night - make star gazing in the garden the social occasion of the 21st century!
Rekindle the spirit of the ARP and the Ministry of Information, and "Put that light out" unless it’s really necessary.
Think about your outside or security light - Does it need to be on? Could it be positioned better, e.g. not into neighbouring properties).
A profusion of security lights, badly sited or constantly left on, can distract or blind road users and light up neighbours houses and gardens, as well as contributing unnecessarily to co2 emissions & household or business expenses.
Action Needed To Reduce Light Pollution
There are three main sources: Public lighting e.g. streetlights; Industrial lighting, e.g. factories, and Home lighting e.g. security lights.
To make a difference it is important that we tackle all three sources of light pollution.
For example, Herefordshire CPRE has received complaints from residents over differing sources of light pollution that have impacted their homes. Most recently residents of Upton Bishop contacted us about the intrusive lighting on a new housing development.
Light Pollution Policy For Herefordshire.
Herefordshire CPRE has long called for Herefordshire Council to take a much more active role in tackling light pollution, which it can do by careful and sensitive scrutiny of planning applications and development proposals to ensure that any external lighting schemes will not increase pollution.
We recently wrote to Herefordshire Council, urging them to develop a Light Pollution Policy.
Herefordshire CPRE recommends that:
- Herefordshire County Council develops a strong policy on light pollution, especially regarding new housing development.
- The council uses CPRE’s maps to inform decisions on local planning applications and identify individual facilities that should be asked to dim or switch off unnecessary lights.
- Local businesses are encouraged to review their current lighting and future development plans to save money by dimming or switching off lights to reduce pollution.
Options For Reducing Light Pollution In Herefordshire
In 2005 Herefordshire CPRE asked Parish Councils to appoint a ‘Dark Skies Officer’ who can monitor light pollution locally and liase with local businesses and individuals to encourage and promote a local policy of ‘consideration for dark skies’.
Parish Councils can also encourage the County Council planners to act by making constructive comments on those planning applications, which may have light pollution implications