Memorandum from SIGMA, Moray's Astronomy
SIGMA has about 50 members, some of whom have
had an interest in astronomy over many years. These members have
had experience of observational astronomy not only throughout
the length and breadth of the UK, but as many have had a services
background, they are familiar with observing conditions in many
other parts of the world, both north and south of the equator.
Members of the above club have noticed a considerable
increase in light pollution in the area in recent years. Some
of the reasons are listed below.
We are not in a position to comment on current
planning regulations and their enforcement with regard to light
With regard to the measurability of light pollution,
we feel that this point has been well covered in the December
2002 issue of the American astronomy magazine, "Sky and Telescope".
It seems to be obvious that further controls
on light pollution are necessary as local councillors approached
on this matter were not only unaware whether the planning authority
had a policy on this matter, they had never heard of the term
1. Council Taxpayers in almost every small
collection of houses demand the same services as everyone else
and have therefore persuaded the Council to provide street lighting.
We cannot deny this right to anyone but the type of street lights
installed are usually of the most intrusive type, with a large
proportion of the light spilling sideways and upwards. Being in
the most rural areas, these lamps are less likely to be replaced
than those in larger villages and towns.
2. In a largely rural community, rural crime
is becoming more of an issue and farmers and isolated householders
are making more frequent use of unregulated security lights, which
can be seen from long distances. These lights not only increase
light pollution but they interfere with the dark adaptation of
astronomers' eyes and are often a hazard to road users. The increase
in the use of security lights in back gardens in built-up areas
has made observing from home impossible for some members.
3. Business in rural areas are becoming
increasingly security conscious and many have surrounded their
premises with inefficient and badly aligned security lights. These
are often visible from considerable distances, to the detriment
of astronomers in the surrounding area.
4. The well-documented economic problems
in the agricultural community have led many farmers to seek diversification
in the use of their land. This has led to a growth in sports and
leisure facilities in what were formerly dark, rural locations.
Golf driving ranges and go-cart tracks are becoming increasingly
popular in the area and as these are all-year-round facilities,
most are floodlit. Proper control of the type of floodlighting
used would reduce their impact on the night sky but at present,
most are visible over large areas with beams of light pointing
upwards not uncommon.
5. In more built up areas, sports facilities
cause similar problems. All weather sports pitches, tennis clubs
and curling ponds are used frequently under floodlit conditions
with some of the older facilities having particularly intrusive
6. As more towns and villages along the
A96 trunk road are by-passed, and business parks built in rural
areas, more and more roundabouts are being constructed. Each roundabout
is accompanied by lights on extremely high poles, visible from
long distances. One particular recently built roundabout has lights
that are dazzling to road users when approached from a hill considerably
above the level of the lighting units. This is an obvious example
of the inefficient types of lighting units still being installed.
Dual carriage-ways in built up areas also seem to accompanied
by unnecessary lighting.
7. Floodlighting at the two RAF bases in
the area and at the many fishing ports along the coast make astronomy
almost impossible near these facilities.
8. There appears to be a discrepancy in
the attitudes of local authorities in the area towards street
lighting. Highland Council and Aberdeenshire Councils appear to
have a policy of installing full cut-off street lights in villages
along trunk roads and at roundabouts on trunk roads but in the
area under the control of Moray Council, full cut-off lights are
conspicuous by their absence.
9. In spite of new and increasing forms
of light pollution in this area, by far the most intrusive form
is the orange glow above every built-up area, produced by the
elderly, inefficient sodium street lights which spill upwards
a large proportion of their light output.
Unlike many forms of pollution which are either
permanent or will take many years to correct, light pollution
can be minimised by the enforcement of the installation of suitable
non-polluting light sources, without compromising safety or security.
With the co-operation of manufacturers and retailers,
unsuitable exterior light fittings for domestic use could be withdrawn
from sale. Private householders who at present utilise badly designed
lights could be encouraged to replace them by the introduction
of a new-for-old scheme.
Legislation could be implemented to give commercial
premises a deadline to replace badly polluting security lights.
Government funds could be provided to allow
local authorities and highways agencies to carry out a rolling
programme of replacing badly polluting and inefficient light sources
in public areas.
An improvement in efficiency would not only
be self-financing in the long term, but would also help the Government
to meet its target for the reduction of greenhouse gasses.
A mixture of legislation, co-operation and consideration
could go a long way to returning the greatest natural wonder of
the world, the night sky, to the people of this country.