Dark Skies and Street Lights
CPRE is a leading voice in the campaign against excessive light pollution caused by streetlights, flood lights and security lighting, making our starry skies ever harder to find. Light at night can disrupt natural patterns of behaviour in both humans and wildlife, having a negative impact on our wellbeing and the natural world around us.
Modern developments in LED lighting have made brighter, cheaper white light more readily available. Domestic security lighting is seeing a rise in popularity. Local Authorities are replacing old street lighting with new LED lighting that is low in energy use but that has greater levels of illuminance that is whiter in colour.
It is not an all-or-nothing debate. Good street lighting can be shaded and directional. Shades can be used that use a less ‘blue’ white light. Street lighting need not be at the maximum illuminance possible with LED lighting. This can curb the spread and harm caused by light pollution. Better understanding about the impact of excessive light at night can influence the use of domestic security lighting.
CPRE have created a NightBlight website where you can find out more about our work and how you can help. It has interactive maps of England’s light pollution and dark skies, so you can see what is happening in your area.
Blue Light at night can have a negative impact on wildlife behaviour and reproduction, can worsen ‘skyglow’ and increase glare, and is not necessary. Blue-rich sources of light are the most efficient LEDs in terms of conversion of electricity to light but there are other options available which should be considered.
What Can We Do?
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) recommends:
- Always choose fully shielded fixtures that emit no light upward.
Use “warm-white” or filtered LEDs (CCT < 3,000 K; S/P ratio < 1.2) to minimize blue emission.
- Look for products with adaptive controls like dimmers, timers, and motion sensors.
- Consider dimming or turning off the lights during overnight hours.
- Avoid the temptation to over-light because of the higher luminous efficiency of LEDs.
- Only light the exact space and in the amount required for particular tasks.
Lobby your Local MP/Council Representative to review:
Of any new public lighting in line with the IDA recommendations.
Campaign locally to promote less use of blue-white LED domestic security lighting and responsible planning of street lighting.
Peter Jones from Underbank, Holmfirth, got in touch with us to discuss the issue. He writes:
The Dark Skies Association state in their guide – The Promise and Challenge of LED lighting:
My local authority, like so many others, is installing bright white street-lights in all areas without a thought for their effect on people or wildlife. That they were given planning permission is a truth stranger than fiction.
My heart goes out to the birds and the insects in the woods and hedgerows, to the cattle and sheep in the fields, to all living creatures with eyesight and especially human beings. Those who used to enjoy walking at night have my deepest sympathy. We have been robbed of our pleasant and beautifully lit night-time environment by the installation on our streets and country lanes of the cheapest, brightest, nastiest, most intrusive, most soul-destroying, unromantic and disruptive-to-wildlife public lighting ever imposed on us by planners and developers.
The improved energy efficiency of LEDs means that, coupled with modern luminaire design, these lights allow for reduced illuminance without compromising safety….
…Another LED benefit is better control over the colour content of the light. Manufacturers now produce LEDs with “warm” colour qualities at high energy efficiency, rendering old arguments about the perceived inefficiency of warm white LEDs moot. These same LED options also provide accurate colour rendition without emitting excessive amounts of potentially harmful blue light.
So, LED lighting that is not harmful to life and to the health of living creatures is an available option. An option?! Yes, just an option. It is not an option being taken up by my local authority. It is perfectly obvious that these cheap lights will be unpleasant and disruptive for all living creatures. Nobody wants to live in a lorry-park.
These brutal bright white street-lights will be a permanent blight on the lives of all creatures who choose to live outside of the city centre unless enough people get together and persuade local authorities to listen to scientists, colour-therapists, ambient lighting-designers, medical associations, artists, biologists, naturalists, poets, lovers and romantics everywhere and choose a friendlier, warmer option suitable for life.
We’re looking at a big problem with an unusually simple solution. Some slight tweaks to the specification would make a world of difference.
CPRE has long campaigned against light pollution, and promoted light design that directs the light downwards, eliminating the upward and sideways spill of lighting that washes out the sky and masks the stars. But the sheer brightness, the whiteness and the increased contrast and dazzle associated with new street lighting schemes are an emerging problem, only becoming apparent as the schemes are installed. Darkness is essential for many creatures, and is an intrinsic characteristic of the countryside at night. We need to work together to understand what’s going wrong and to put forward solutions.
If you are interested in finding out more about Dark Skies in West Yorkshire, or stargazing more generally, Go Stargazing is a great place to start.
Swinsty and Fewston Reservoir Car Park, Fewston, Otley, HG3 1ST is a designated Dark Skies Discovery Site.
If you have a story to share about your experience of Dark Skies, or a successful campaign about streetlighting in your area, please get in touch, or let us know your favourite place in West Yorkshire for checking out the night sky. We would love to hear from you.