Lighting the way forward


Lighting the way forward

By Neil Young, Senior Environmental Scientist

Artificial lighting is an inherent part of the built environment. Lighting helps to provide a feeling of safety and security during the hours of darkness, whilst the sensitive lighting of landmarks helps to enhance the night-time environment.

However, there is potential for artificial light to shine where it is not needed, which can result in ‘obtrusive light’ or ‘light pollution’ that can affect the amenity of local residents, and cause harm to wildlife and our enjoyment of the countryside and the night sky.

The UK Government has set out clear planning policy and guidance on how to consider obtrusive light within the planning process.

However, our experience is that the impact of lighting within the planning process is not always fully considered, and therefore some new developments aren’t as sensitive to the night-time environment as they could be. This can be the result of inadequate knowledge of the issues associated with light pollution or the relaxed validation requirements relating to night time external lighting considerations.

But why should this matter?

Firstly, it’s been almost 10 years since the law changed to bring artificial light into the statutory nuisance regime.

This means that if lighting is not considered appropriately at the design stage, it could lead to an abatement notice for the operator if the local authority believes there to be a light nuisance (unless the premises is exempt). Lighting schemes are expensive to design and install, and so it’s important that they are designed and maintained from the outset to minimise any risk of future nuisance claims during their operation.

Secondly, the Government has set out ambitious plans for substantial new development and infrastructure over the life of this Parliament, with key targets including the delivery of a million new homes by 2020 and £100bn committed in infrastructure spending - particularly for transport and energy.

As a result, we are now considering large scale-construction of development and infrastructure such as Garden Cities, Sustainable Urban Extensions (SUEs) and strategic road infrastructure in rural and relatively dark environments that can be sensitive to changes in artificial lighting (for example, Dark Sky Reserves, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Nature Conservation Areas) or contain light sensitive receptors, such as residents, airports, heritage features and wildlife.

It is now more important than ever that the consideration of artificial light on the environment is reviewed through the design process, to ensure that we end up with development and infrastructure that is not only safe, secure and energy efficient, but also responds to the local environment.

The benefits to our clients of considering lighting in this way are clear. Factoring artificial light into the design process can not only increase the chances of achieving planning permission by providing technical teams and local planning authority the information they require to make a decision. It can also lead to better outcomes for local communities and the local environment – the very reason for undertaking development.

For more information, please contact Neil directly.