UK parliamentary group calls for dark sky legislation

The APPG for Dark Skies has called on the government to implement new legislation to control and mitigate light pollution across the UK.

Credit: Light pollution from towns and cities can have a detrimental effect on our views of the night sky. Credit: Dneutral Han / Getty Images

An all-parliamentary group that’s seeking to protect the UK’s dark skies has called on the government to act urgently to cut light pollution and protect the night skies above Britain.

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The demand follows a call in August 2020 by the group, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dark Skies, seeking proposals on the subject of light pollution and night-sky preservation.

Earlier in 2020 a report said 61% of people in the UK live under ‘severe’ light pollution.

The glare of light pollution can be a menace for amateur astronomers. Credit: Steve Marsh
The glare of light pollution can be a menace for amateur astronomers. Credit: Steve Marsh

Light pollution is the term given to the detrimental effect of artificial lighting on our view of the night sky, as astronomical phenomena such as stars, constellations, planets and the Milky Way become more difficult to see under the glare of light from towns and cities.

Bodies such as the International Dark Sky Association and the UK-focussed Dark Sky Discovery, for example, help identify and preserve regions of low light pollution where views of the night sky are protected.

This latest report from the APPG for Dark Skies says there are “big gaps” in the current legal framework and planning permission processes in the UK in terms of regulating light pollution.

It calls for new legislation to protect the darkness of the night sky over the UK, including the creation of a statutory Commission for Dark Skies to “punish non compliance” and to empower local authorities to enforce regulations.

It also says there should be standardised brightness and colour temperature of lighting, including legal limits to the amount of blue light emitted by a luminaire.

Dunkery Beacon in Exmoor National Park is one of many places in the UK where beautiful vistas of the night sky can be seen. Credit: Keith Trueman
Dunkery Beacon in Exmoor National Park is one of many places in the UK where dark skies are protected. Could legislation be brought in to protect dark skies over towns and cities? Credit: Keith Trueman

The report says all lighting units should be sold and distributed with instructions for “the control of obtrusive light”, and suggests the implementation of ‘Dark Sky Hours’ in which some lighting could be dimmed or turned off.

The group have also called for the appointment of a designated Minister for Dark Skies and a Dark Sky Towns & Cities initiative to create voluntary ‘Dark Sky Town/City’ classifications across the UK.

Click here for the full APPG for Dark Skies policy plan.

APPG for Dark Skies co-chairs Andrew Griffith MP (left) and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees (right).
APPG for Dark Skies co-chairs Andrew Griffith MP (left) and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees (right).

The APPG for Dark Skies includes members from the Conservative Party, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, as well as representatives from the House of Lords. Its aim is to advocate for the preservation of dark skies in the UK Parliament.

The group was founded in January 2020 by co-chairs Andrew Griffith, Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, and Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees.

Its purpose is to gather information on the key threats to dark-sky preservation in the UK and identify solutions, such as changes to planning policy or the adoption of dark-sky friendly lighting.

As well as focussing on the effects of light pollution on astronomy and stargazing, the consultation process also investigated the environmental, economic, energy and health consequences of light pollution.

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For more information visit the APPG for Dark Skies website.