Pioneering scheme to protect North York Moors' dark skies for stargazers

A pioneering grant scheme could be created to help protect the treasured night-time landscape for stargazers within the North York Moors National Park.

Preserving access to its dark skies has long been a priority for the North York Moors National Park Authority, whose members will be asked in the coming days to back a new £50,000 initiative.

The scheme, with up to £2,500 allocated for individual premises, would be focused initially on protecting and expanding those dark areas which have already been identified, as well as going on to improve others in time.

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“The National Park is one of the best places in the country to see stars because of the low light pollution levels and clear horizons,” said senior officer Mike Hawtin.

Mountain Biking at Sutton Bank. Image: Steve Bell/NYMNPA

“From a town or city you’ll be lucky to spot more than a handful of stars but the further away you get from street lights, the better the view. In the darkest areas of the park you can see up to 2,000 stars at any one time.

“Like any of our special landscapes, we need to understand potential threats to our dark skies and look at ways of protecting them wherever possible.”

Protection

The park authority aims to use funding provided as a result of planning agreements made in connection with the Woodsmith potash mine venture at Whitby.

“When we think about preserving dark skies our initial consideration is tranquillity and the ability to see stars at night,” added Mr Hawtin.

“In reality the benefits of reducing light pollution are much wider and include tourism, education, wildlife habitats, human health and in reducing carbon emissions from energy waste.”

Mr Hawtin warned there were increasing concerns about rural security which can result in individuals and businesses using more light rather than less, adding that too much open air light can cause problems when it comes to obscuring the skies.

“Premises with excessive lighting can have a significant impact on tranquillity by causing sky glow which impacts on the ability to see stars at night.”

Management plan

The North York Moors National Park Authority has drawn up a lighting management plan to protect its dark skies.

The plan provides a framework to show where protection is needed and where improvements need to be made to expand the park’s darkest areas, a report to planning members to be considered on December 16 states.

pecial lighting audits may also be needed at farms, large public houses and large campsites, the report adds, and acknowledges that it may be necessary to target business and resident groups, and organisations to work with the authority to deliver projects to cut light pollution.