As of April, planning authorities will be obliged to take into account outdoor lighting fixtures when considering the suitability of new developments.

Rather than lighting up the night sky or the area around them, new lights will have to face downwards.

Under the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2005 light pollution will find itself on similar footing to noise pollution and residents plagued by intrusive bright lights will be able to ask the authorities for an abatement order if the light is ‘prejudicial to health or a nuisance’.

Fines of up to £5,000 will be meted out to individuals who refuse to comply while businesses could face penalties of up to £20,000.

The legislation has been warmly welcomed by astronomers and others wishing to view the night sky in all its glory rather than blotted out by artificial light, but the British Astronomical Society-led Campaign for Dark Skies has warned that while it can be seen as progress, it will not stamp out light pollution.

This is an important step in what has been a long and arduous campaign, and is of great interest and utility to anyone concerned about an eventual environmentally sound lighting policy in the UK, Bob Mizon, co-ordinator of the campaign, told edie.

However, it is not a quick fix for the problems caused by misdirected light, whether here below or in the night sky.

He stressed there was still work for the campaign to do and said it would continue to vigorously target the kind of over-bright lighting which causes much of these problem, such as a typical 500-Watt domestic security light which is half as bright as the UK s brightest lighthouse.

It will also press for a coherent Government policy specifically including the night sky as part of the environment which DEFRA is charged to protect and continue to educate the public, retailers, manufacturers and decision-makers about the need to save energy and money while helping the environment through sane lighting practices.

By Sam Bond

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