Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report


1. In February 2003 we decided to conduct an inquiry to examine the effectiveness of measures taken to reduce the impact of light pollution on astronomy and to consider what further steps, if any, were required. The inquiry was announced on 4 February with the following terms of reference:

  • What has been the impact of light pollution on UK astronomy?
  • Are current planning guidelines strong enough to protect against light pollution?
  • Are planning guidelines being applied and enforced effectively?
  • Is light measurable in such a way as to make legally enforceable regulatory controls feasible?
  • Are further controls on the design of lighting necessary?

2. The purpose of the inquiry was to establish whether astronomy had been affected by light pollution to such a degree that appropriate legislative action needed to be taken by the Government. Our recommendations apply principally to the UK Government.

3. We received over 120 submissions to this inquiry. We held two oral evidence sessions on 9 June and 14 July with five sets of witnesses from the amateur and professional astronomy societies, the Institution of Lighting Engineers, the Highways Agency, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, a Local Authority, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the Government.

4. The Committee made one visit in relation to this inquiry, to Greenwich in the late evening hours of 4 June. We met representatives from local amateur societies, Mr Bob Mizon and Dr Chris Baddiley, Campaign for Dark Skies, Dr Helen Walker, Royal Astronomical Society, and Dr Robin Catchpole and Dr Robert Massey of the Royal Observatory Greenwich. We were most grateful to the Royal Observatory for kindly allowing us to visit, and for the use of the telescope and planetarium. Mr Tom Harris MP made a visit in a representative capacity to the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews and met Dr Ron Hilditch.

5. We are grateful to all those who have submitted evidence to and assisted in the inquiry, with special thanks to the Vectis Astronomical Society and Mr Nigel Pollard of NEP Lighting Consultancy.

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Prepared 6 October 2003