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Views sought on planning guidance to preserve dark skies

A three month consultation period has opened to seek views on a draft supplementary planning guidance note (SPG) that will encourage good lighting design across the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Three local authorities: Denbighshire County Council, Flintshire County Council and Wrexham County Borough Council have formed a joint committee to work in partnership on the initiative with the AONB.

In a statement at the consultation’s launch earlier this month, Chair of the Joint Committee, Councillor Tony Thomas said: ‘The Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB is one of Wales’ most cherished landscapes.

‘The area enjoys some of the darkest skies in Wales and provides opportunities to experience the wonders of a dark night sky.

‘The SPG will help to conserve and enhance this special quality by raising awareness of the issue and promoting dark sky friendly lighting design.  We want to know what you think, and I would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the consultation process and to have their say on the draft SPG before the deadline on August 9th.’

The SPG will provide developers with guidance and advice on how to ensure lighting is installed in a sympathetic manner. When it receives approval from the three Local Planning Authorities it will form a material planning consideration for applications and appeals.

Being able to see the stars is not only good for our mental health and wellbeing but it is essential for biodiversity. Some 60% of wildlife is nocturnal and the lunar cycle plays an important part in the behaviour of many species. Bright lighting can have adverse effects on the wider ecosystem.

There are a number of simple, inexpensive things that can be done to control light pollution and people are being asked to think carefully about both new and existing developments:

  • External lighting should be shielded to direct light downwards.
  • Motion sensors and timers ensure light is only there when it is needed.
  • Consideration should be given to ‘light trespass’, stopping its spillage into neighbouring properties by proper installation and direction.
  • Light colour temperature should be below 3000 Kelvin. It should give a soft yellow glow rather than a harsh blue-white glare.

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NewStartMag spoke with David Shiel, Area Manager of the AONB who explained why keeping the skies dark is so important.

Mr Shiel said: ‘This guidance is about giving people the tools to make good decisions on new lighting on new developments in the AONB – lighting that protects our night skies, our biodiversity and our own health and wellbeing. 

‘It’s not about fewer lights and thrusting the AONB into darkness, it’s about the right kind of lighting in the right places and simple measures to reduce the negative impacts that artificial light can have.  The amazing starry night skies are one of the things that make the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley special and we hope that this guidance document will help to preserve them.’

The AONB is installing motion sensors at its sites and an application to become a designated Dark Sky Community, with International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) accreditation, is planned.

Mr Shiel referred to the idea as a ‘no-brainer’, saying that it will be good for business, extending the tourism season into the winter months, good for wellbeing and good for biodiversity.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas

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