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Monday, 20 June 2016

National parks are being kept in the dark ... and that's how they want it

The North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales national parks boast some of the darkest skies possible and little light pollution, according to new research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The most detailed ever satellite maps of England’s light pollution and dark skies confirm that 92 per cent of the skies above the North York Moors are in the two darkest categories while the Yorkshire Dales national park does even better with 98 per cent.
The areas are regarded as magnets for those seeking tranquility and peace, and low levels of light pollution are vital to those who wish to enjoy and be inspired by dark skies at night and the feeling of remoteness they engender.

Earlier this year, the areas hosted their first Joint Dark Skies Festival with 30 events across 13 locations to enjoy an array of celestial activities. A similar event is planned next year.

This research comes at a time of increasing awareness of the harmful effects light pollution can have on the health of people and wildlife.

The CPRE is calling on local planning authorities to use the maps to identify areas with severe light pollution and target action to reduce it, as well as identifying existing dark skies that need protecting.

"But the findings are also a call to action. Dark areas are fragile and wasteful lighting is a threat to quality of the night-sky as well as nocturnal wildlife. Anyone who has spent a few hours under a North York Moors sky after sunset will tell you what a special place this by night as well as day. It's an increasingly rare view worth protecting for future generations.”

Emma Marrington, the CPRE's senior rural policy campaigner, said: “Our view of the stars is obscured by artificial light. Many children in urban areas may not have seen the Milky Way, our own galaxy, due to the veil of light that spreads across their night skies.

“Councils can reduce light levels through better planning and with investment in the right street lighting that is used only where and when it is needed.

“Our Night Blight maps also show where people can expect to find a truly dark, starry sky. The benefits of dark skies, for health, education and tourism, are now being recognised, with areas such as the South Downs National Park receiving International Dark Skies Reserve status. Dark skies are a key characteristic of what makes the countryside so different from urban areas.”                      

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