Latest AONB News
WHY DARK NIGHT SKIES ARE ESSENTIAL FOR ALL
“IT is the enormity of the sky that is so amazing in the Cranborne Chase AONB,” said Cllr Bridget Wayman, Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Waste at Wiltshire Council. Bridget was opening a special seminar, hosted by the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Dinton Village Hall on Tuesday 20 March, which focussed on the various benefits of dark night skies. These include improvements to human health, for example better sleep and wellbeing, better conditions for wildlife, which can be detrimentally affected by too much light at night, as well as turning the area into a magnet for tourists, thus creating benefits for local businesses.
The Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is currently applying to become a prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve - if successful it would only be the 13th such area in the world.
Speakers at the seminar included Duncan Wise, Visitor Development & Marketing Manager for Northumberland National Park Authority and the lead officer on the joint collaboration with Kielder Water & Forest Park which secured International Dark Sky Park (Gold Tier) status. Gaining Dark Sky Park status in 2013 was, said Duncan, “a game changer for rural tourism in Northumberland”, while the Kielder Observatory continues to see record numbers of visitors since the designation. Visitors making a beeline to attractions in the region are up 63% and the Park has seen a huge spike in tourism in the previously quieter winter months.
On the flip side, according to Duncan, wasted light in the UK costs an estimated £1bn. “The good news is that light pollution is reversible,” he noted. Improving lighting isn’t a case of turning everything off, but “ensuring that all outdoor lights are not too bright – avoid the piercing blue-white LED lights and go for warmer white LEDs – and that they are fully shielded – so they shine downwards and avoid upward glare”.
Malcolm Mackness, a lighting expert, told the audience to confine lighting to the areas where it is needed, switch off when appropriate, control the light by a timer or detector and provide enough for the task but don’t over-light. He noted that lighting pointing across yards and sports fields can be among the worst polluters.
Linda Nunn, Director of the AONB, told the audience that the Cranborne Chase AONB is one of the darkest places in England. “But while the road to Reserve status is going well – for example we have run many audience engagement dark sky events, such as funding the popular Space Detectives to visit primary schools – the compliance of domestic and business external lighting is currently low and something we are trying to address. Please help us. You can also assist us by signing our Dark Sky Pledge [http://www.chasingstars.org.uk/get-involved/sign-our-dark-skies-pledge.html]. Helping people to enjoy our dark skies even more will be for the benefit of all.”