Let’s keep our villages in the dark

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By David Hook

Norfolk’s dark skies and dark landscapes, which are among the least light polluted in all of England, are important elements of our county’s rural character and deserve greater protection.

A recent CPRE survey revealed that 96% of Norfolk villages that currently do not have street lights want to remain unlit. A large number of respondents emphasised how much they treasured our starry skies and tranquil dark rural nights. Unfortunately, the additional lighting associated with ever increasing levels of development together with a proliferation of security lights pose a threat to extensive areas of rural dark countryside. However the good news is that light pollution is a problem that can be solved and we can all play a part in tackling this issue.

The contribution that street lighting makes to light pollution can be reduced through the use of full cut off flat glass lamps that direct light downwards and by the introduction of part night lighting and dimming technology. Local authorities in Norfolk are increasingly replacing sodium lights with LED lamps and this is beneficial. LED lights are very directional, low energy and require less maintenance than sodium light sources. Furthermore the white light that LEDs produce is far less urbanising in character than the pink or orange glow that emanates from sodium lights.

Public lighting provision seems to be moving in the right direction, it is private lighting, which often falls outside planning rules, that remains a major cause for concern. As we enter winter you may be tempted to erect outside lighting for the first time or to extend existing lighting. Before proceeding with installation please ask yourself if the lighting you are considering is really necessary and will it provide benefits.

There is an increasing body of evidence to show that lighting is of little or no use in the fight against crime. Where part night lighting has been introduced crime rates have either not increased or have actually fallen during that part of the night when lights have been switched off. Lighting can actually assist a burglar by revealing points of entry, places to hide and things to steal and may therefore be counter productive. Consider alternative crime prevention measures such as night vision security cameras.

The simplest way you can make a contribution to reducing light pollution is to not install outside lighting. If you are still determined to go ahead then please ensure that you use LED lamps and that they are only switched on when needed, avoid dusk to dawn lights. Movement sensor lights are a good idea as they draw attention to an area when motion is detected. The light source should be entirely enclosed within the lamp shield and the unit should be installed so that it points directly downwards, not upwards or outwards.

By following this advice you will be playing your part in protecting Norfolk’s dark skies and dark landscapes and will also help reduce the impact of lighting on climate change.

Further advice is available in the CPRE Norfolk leaflet Reducing Light Pollution which can be downloaded here

This column appeared in the December 2020 edition of the Norfolk Magazine

 

A footpath alongside a hedgerow and farmland in the Norfolk countryside