Why are dark skies important?
For visitors or residents in a beautiful protected landscape such as the North York Moors National Park, our dark sky vistas and night-time habitats are every bit as important as those we see during the day. Sensitively installed and correctly adjusted lighting helps protect dark skies which are important for many reasons.
Residents and visitors to protected landscapes such as National Parks value the feeling of tranquillity at night that only comes under truly dark skies.
The stargazing season starts after the busy summer season, boosting tourism businesses over autumn and winter without putting additional stress on rural communities
A stargazing experience is often considered to be the first opportunity children get to understand the scale of the universe and our place in it, inspiring an interest in science.
Storytelling based on the stars has been used for thousands of years to pass on important cultural and scientific messages. The stars have inspired everyone from Van Gough’s paintings to Don McLean songs.
Over millions of years, all creatures, trees, shrubs and plants have evolved to survive and thrive with natural day/night cycles. Flora and fauna haven’t evolved to cope with artificial light at night and it can have a devastating impact on the natural behaviour of moths, bats, hedgehogs and birds to name a few.
Humans too have evolved natural circadian rhythms (natural sleep-wake cycles), which, when disrupted by bright lights at night, can cause health issues including insomnia, depression and even certain types of cancer.
Switching to LED lighting saves energy and money but used incorrectly can cause significant nuisance. Well controlled and sensitively installed lighting is crucial in helping to protect dark skies.
We are committed to protecting our dark skies through the planning system, and have a policy in place (Policy ENV4) in our Local Plan that requires adherence to some simple lighting guidelines. We have produced a 'Supplementary Planning Document' (SPD) setting out these guidelines.
Best practice - How to protect our dark skies
Protecting dark skies isn’t about removing all lights at night. We all need light for different reasons, whether it’s to get safely to our front door or to work outdoors at night.
Instead we need to use light responsibly and sensitively to benefit ourselves, our neighbours and the nocturnal habitats around us. Light pollution is reversible! Unlike other forms of pollution, light pollution is a problem with solutions that are easy to implement. These solutions deliver immediate and lasting results plus they save energy and money.
Is the light needed?
Before installing or replacing a light, consider the purpose of the light and what its impact will be on the surrounding area, including wildlife and neighbours. Reflective paints or luminous markers can be used as alternatives for marking curbs, steps and paths.
Light only where needed
Direct light only to where it is needed. Consider pointing your floodlights downwards or change to specially designed downlights to reduce wasted stray or upward light that can cause nuisance to others. If coach style lights must be used, see our advice on light levels and colour temperature below.
Light only when needed
It is rare that lighting needs to be permanently on. Use timers and/or motion detectors to ensure light is dimmed when possible and off when not needed. Well-positioned lights using sensors are better for detecting intruders than poorly positioned lights that are constantly on, which permanently show what’s on offer from a distance and create shadows for criminals to lurk in.
Light at a suitable level to the need
Light should be no brighter than necessary for the task. Typical outside doorway lights should be rated on the box as a maximum of 500 lumens. Where higher light levels are needed for an operational or safety purpose, two smaller lights pointing downwards are better than one big upward angled light, which simply causes glare and nuisance.
Choose the correct colour
Short wavelength (cool blue) light produces more sky glow and is most harmful to wildlife and human health. Select lights or bulbs that are a maximum of 3000k and preferably 2700k (this is stated on the box or in the product description when looking online).
Best practice – lighting examples
Use the following guidance when thinking about adapting existing lighting or fitting new units.
Here’s a handy home audit guide to follow from DarkSky (formerly International Dark-Sky Association). Be sure to consult a qualified electrician for installation and a lighting engineer for any operational health and safety needs.
Carefully chosen lighting fixtures will help avoid glaring untargeted and wasted light which can cause disorientation and safety hazards. Instead shielded lights with appropriate controls ensure that light is targeted where it is needed, when it is needed and at a level suitable to the need.
Best practice – lighting improvements
Lighting improvements can transform external lighting and deliver all of the benefits described so far. Here are some examples of the many projects we’ve been involved in.
Farm lighting improvement
Before: Unshielded floodlight causing significant glare and upward light
After: Shielded floodlights targeting the light only where it is needed
General exterior lighting improvement
Before: Cold glare from unshielded floodlights causes shadow and discomfort
After: Shielded and targeted warm light offers improved coverage and security
Remember we should only light what we need, only light when we need it and only light at a level suitable to the need.
Financial assistance is available via contributions to help business owners and owners of larger properties to convert to dark skies friendly lighting. Email email@example.com for more information.
How else you can help
In addition to your own actions at home, you can ask your MP to join the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dark Skies. By encouraging your MP to do so you will help to strengthen their voice and introduce legislation to protect our dark skies for generations to come.
There's more information on light pollution through the UK Dark Skies Partnership, an informal collaboration of professional organisations, institutions and UK protected landscapes. Its specific commitments are the protection and improvement of dark skies over both DarkSky Places and others, and the progressive reduction of both urban and rural light pollution through better lighting practice.