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Reduce light pollution, campaign argues

Words: Roger Milne
Street lights on motorway

Councils in England aren't doing enough to reduce the scourge of light pollution, according to new claims.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has drawn the conclusion from what it claims is the first research into steps local authorities are taking to reduce the impact of 'unnecessary glare'.
It has suggested that reducing the impact of light pollution by adjusting street lighting and making better use of dimming schemes would reduce carbon budgets and save money. 
The countryside campaigners found that fewer than two-thirds of councils were minimising the impact of bad lighting despite changes to planning laws encouraging them to do so. 
The CPRE's survey found that the proportion of people living with severe light pollution around the country is on the increase.
Although 80 per cent of councils said they considered the impact of lighting on the open countryside when considering lighting on building developments or highways, over a third had no policy in place to help them control light pollution.
But almost a third of councils surveyed were switching off street lights, typically between midnight and 5am, and almost half of respondents said they were involved in dimming street lights in their areas. 
The research found dimming schemes are significantly more popular than switch off schemes with residents, with 68 per cent of respondents saying local communities had been very supportive.
The CPRE pointed out that street lighting in England costs councils approximately £616m per year and can account for up to 30 per cent of their carbon emissions.
Therefore, tackling light pollution ought to be a 'no-brainer', it argued.
The CPRE is urging councils to do more to control lighting in their areas.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including: having a policy to preserve dark skies by having a presumption against new lighting in existing dark areas; allocating lighting zones to help determine where street lights should and should not go; and preventing inappropriate and badly designed lighting that masks views of the night sky.