Keeping the Chilterns’ skies dark: CCB responds to “Dark Skies” consultation
Although all AONBs are classified as “Intrinsically Dark Zones”, unfortunately the Chilterns is one of the most light polluted of all protected landscapes. It suffers from sky glow from London and nearby towns and transport corridors like the M25 and M40, as well as light spill from homes and businesses within the AONB. However, the good news is that light pollution is completely reversible.
The benefits of dark skies are obvious: savings on carbon emissions and money as well as being better for nocturnal wildlife (bats, moths, plant germination). Astro-tourism is growing in popularity, with local communities and visitors coming to dark sky areas for stargazing events, allowing us to re-discover the beauty of the night sky. Being able to see the stars and imagine ancient peoples looking at the same view is a cherished childhood memory and must be preserved for generations to come.
Our Management Plan for 2019-24 included, for the first time, policies designed to reduce light pollution in the Chilterns AONB. So we were delighted to be able to give our input into the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dark Skies’ recent consultation.
- The introduction of new planning practice guidance to provide detailed guidance on intrinsically dark environments. This would include details of where lighting must be resisted, where it is acceptable and how it should be scrutinised by the planning system.
- National policy should establish that AONBs and National Parks must be the subject of very stringent lighting controls and that this must be given great weight in the determination of planning applications.
- The AONB Management Plan 2019-2024 contains a new policy, designed to control lighting. This policy carries weight in planning application decision-making but it is at the lowest tier (of 3), below Development (Local) Plans and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Greater emphasis and weight must be established by embedding this issue, in the NPPF, for example.
- Notwithstanding major infrastructure projects, such as HS2, in which the exact details of security and line side lighting are yet to be resolved, CCB would draw attention to recent planning applications for sports lighting (including multi-use games areas), road infrastructure projects and recent housing developments. All of these projects bring bathed top lit columnar lighting into the AONB, within an otherwise dark sky environment.
We look forward to working constructively with the APPG on this issue going forward.
Read our response to the consultation here.