Headlines: March 22nd, 2006

Council leaders have produced a three-point plan on ways to deal with light pollution. From next month anyone who finds artificial light a nuisance will be able to ask their local authority to deal with the problem under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, which will treat light pollution as a criminal offence. Failure to comply with the new law could lead to fines of up to 5,000 pounds.The Local Government Association says that from April 6th environmental health officers will provide advice on light pollution as well as offering mediation in disputes and serving abatement orders where necessary. The LGA is behind the three-point plan to help residents crack down on light pollution. It suggests recording the problem with a detailed note of times and dates of nuisance and, if possible, taking photographs for evidence; speaking to the light owner to see if a compromise is possible and, if a compromise cannot be reached, contacting the local council.

In those cases environmental health officers will decide if the lighting is a nuisance and if it is a request, that it is dealt with. If an abatement order is ignored, the local authority may begin legal action.

David Sparks, chairman of the LGA’s Environment Board said councils had been powerless for too many years to get involved with complaints about nuisance lighting but they would now be in a position to put a stop to such problems. “The failure to tackle light pollution has left a blackout of Britain’s skies and this has left many children completely oblivious of the wonders of the universe,” he said. Preventing light pollution could also help people to save money by being more energy efficient.

Councillor Sparks said it was important that authorities kept a sense of proportion. “We are not arguing for a return to a World war two blackout, clearly the flood lighting of significant buildings does add an extra dimension to the attractiveness of our architectural heritage. The objective is to enjoy the night sky and the unique silhouette of a building against the night sky.”

The LGA has also pointed to the steps that a number of authorities have already taken to reduce light pollution. South Tyneside Council is leading the way with its ‘Light-It’ initiative, a 63 million pound brighter, clearer white light PFI scheme. It will see 18,500 of the council’s 23,600 light columns being replaced with new columns and modern white lighting. In Hampshire the County Council is introducing highly reflective road bollards to replace the illuminated ones and street lighting has been updated to avoid light spilling onto adjacent properties. In another example, 20 recycling centres run by Norfolk County Council use sensitive lighting and CCTV rather than permanent dusk-to-dawn lighting. Sheffield and Sunderland are also replacing light columns and Devon County Council is using a new style zebra crossing where the white sections of the traditional black and white light poles are constantly lit. The new system is brighter but causes less light pollutio