Concerns About Light Pollution Over Scilly

The dark night skies above Scilly, so admired by stargazers, are something we take for granted.

But there are growing concerns that light pollution from new developments could put this under threat.

Councillor Amanda Martin expressed dismay at a recent Council planning meeting about the amount of light pollution from the new school, which she described as “scandalous”, adding that it needed addressing urgently.

In the past, there have been complaints about the light from the health centre and the quay and a recent poll conducted by Radio Scilly showed 34% of people thought there was a problem with light pollution in Scilly, while 61% felt it needed to be monitored.

And the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) spoke in its latest newsletter about the “gradual encroachment on the dark night sky, with measureable deterioration between 1993 and 2000.”

The AONB want steps to be taken to “enhance public appreciation of Scilly’s dark night skies, to reverse the trend of deterioration and to develop a potential tourism asset.”

But with so much natural beauty in Scilly, both on land and sea, it is sometimes easy to overlook what’s going on in the skies above us.

Rebecca Steggles from the AONB says the stars in Scilly are amazing and we’re still lucky this hasn’t been lost yet.

She thinks the dark skies over Scilly add value to the AONB designation, with the potential to draw new visitors to the islands, so called astrotourists.

But there is a need to monitor light pollution over the long term and Rebecca told us the AONB is hoping to obtain a light meter to record this.

When we spoke to Bryce Wilby, headmaster of the Five Islands School, he told us he’s just as horrified by the light pollution at the new school as Councillor Martin.

Bryce said there are timers and sensors on the external lights, meaning they come on from 7.00am in the morning and again until 9.30pm in the evening only if it’s dark outside.

But he says the external and internal light controllers had lots of errors when they were first installed and Kier have been trying to resolve the problems.

A variety of solutions have been put into place to ensure the devices all work correctly and Bryce is hopeful it’ll be resolved soon.

Rebecca thinks everyone in the community can do their bit to help, by turning off lights when not needed or fitting sensors.

The Council already turn streetlights off late at night although the main reason for this is energy use rather than light pollution.

The UK has three International Dark Sky Reserves – Galloway Forest in Scotland, Sark in the Channel Islands and the newest, Exmoor.

Rebecca says the AONB is in discussions with those areas to understand how this may ultimately be applied to Scilly, although there are no plans at present to achieve that status.


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