Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum from Robert Ince

  As an amateur astronomer of some 30 years, I am writing to you to request that your committee recommends legislation that can help stop the growth (and maybe even reduce the existing effects) of light pollution in the UK.

  It is sad that growing sky glow that arises from a combination of artificial light emitted directly into the sky from light fittings and light reflected up into the sky from buildings and the ground means that new generations of children will simply not experience the wonders of a clear, dark night sky. I remember the joy I had when I started in Astronomy, being able to wonder at the depth and complexity of the night sky—a wonder that started me into a career of science that has sustained me for all these years. The sadness is made worse when it is my own young children that can not even see the likes of the Milky Way without the use of telescopes and other expensive equipment.

  One of the ironies is that is the plethora of poorly designed security lighting, both residential and commercial, that is contributing to this loss of our night skies. The fact that these lights are ostensibly there to improve perceived security is at odds to the fact that areas of high lighting actually make it more attractive to criminals (high contrast shadows, the ability to see the intended target etc) . . .

  It is even more ironic that the design of such lighting is wasteful in energy, casting much of the generated light into areas not intended or needed to be lit. It is estimated that the use of such poorly designed lighting is wasting between 30 and 50% of its energy costs by radiating above the horizontal. Given that it is estimated that there are some six million streetlights alone in the UK, this wastage is a substantial cost and contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions.

  Contributions from advertising and shop signs left on all night may be smaller but should not be ignored.

  Whilst existing guidelines do allow lighting issues to be considered as part of planning applications etc, I believe it would be much more beneficial to move the existing lighting issue into a legislative context—potentially under a modification of the existing laws on nuisance and antisocial behaviour?

  I believe you should be considering:

    —  Government planning guidance on when and how to control lighting in order to reduce light pollution and energy waste.

    —  Local authority planning policies which protect unlit landscapes and countryside and which control lighting in new development.

    —  Light pollution recognised as a statutory nuisance, similar to noise pollution.

    —  Full assessment of lighting proposals in roads and other development schemes.

    —  Local authorities to review the impact of existing lighting and with lighting engineers to put forward schemes to reduce this impact.

    —  Recognition by the Department of Transport that mechanisms other than lighting have a role in reducing night-time accidents.

    —  Guidance for planners, highway authorities and developers on the most efficient and effective lighting systems, in particular systems which limit upward light.

    —  Information for the public on minimising intrusive lighting through the use of low intensity, sensor—or time controlled and well-directed domestic lighting systems.

    —  All new domestic outdoor lighting systems to include information on correct installation to minimise light pollution

July 2003

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