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Last Updated: Monday, 6 October, 2003, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Action call over light pollution
ISS image of London by night, Nasa
Street lights are clearly visible from the International Space Station (Image by Nasa)
Serious action is needed from ministers to tackle light pollution, a group of MPs have said.

The House of Commons science and technology committee have criticised the government for an "inconsistent approach" to the issue.

In their latest report, the MPs also criticise local authorities for failing to tackle the issue of light pollution.

"There are too many local planning authorities which have not taken the issue of light pollution seriously."

The politicians highlight the impact of light on astronomy while drawing attention to the way such pollution affects people's enjoyment of star-filled skies.

Clamp down

Home Office evidence that suggests public lighting reduces crime is also questioned in the report.

The MPs called on the government to address energy waste caused by over-powerful lighting and to clamp down on growing light pollution.

Their recommendations include:

  • Making obtrusive light a statutory nuisance and enabling action against neighbours who seriously light pollute.

  • Introduce new planning guidelines on light pollution.

  • Better guidance for local authorities on how to manage street lighting.

    The select committee's proposals were welcomed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

    A spokesman said: "We are delighted that the select committee recognises the 'compelling evidence' we have proved, which clearly shows an increase in light pollution in both rural and urban areas.

    "The government cannot hide in the shadows or creep away from this growing problem.

    "Light pollution threatens to deprive most people of the precious experience of seeing thousands of stars at night, the sense of peace and solitude in the countryside after dark and the opportunity to live without being dowsed in the aggressive lighting of neighbouring premises when trying to sleep."

    In their report the MPs also said that most professional astronomy now took place outside the UK.

    That was due in part to the unpredictable British weather but also to light pollution, they said.

    The committee said that dark rural areas and parkland should only be lit by full cut-off lighting which allows no rays to spill upwards into the night sky.

    The BBC's Christine McGourty
    "Action is needed if future generations are to enjoy the sky at night"

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