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“Dark” and light – as a planning issue

On 13 October 2011 the Infrastructure Planning Commission issued a decision and statement of reasons on the first project it has determined. It approved Covanta Energy’s 65-megawatt Rookery South energy from waste facility, proposed for a former brick clay extraction pit near Stewartby in Bedfordshire. The decision follows a six month examination of the application by a panel of three Commissioners.

One aspect of the decision which may not get much attention is the Panel’s consideration of the issue of lighting.

At para. 5.108 of the statement of reasons it is noted that “[s]everal interested parties expressed concerns during the examination that light pollution would result from the proposed development if it were to proceed” in particular because as the Panel noted (see para. 5.109) “the site is currently ‘dark’, with no artificial light sources normally present on it, and that the proposed development would operate 24/7 with external lighting in the hours of darkness we understand their concerns. Notwithstanding this, there are numerous existing light sources in the surrounding area, including street lights in both Stewartby and Marston Moretaine.”

The Panel were satisfied with what the developer proposed saying:

“5.110 As to the proposals for the development, a preliminary lighting strategy has been drawn up (DOC/2.30). This shows the intention is to light the main operational areas, but not the access road that would link the plant to Green Lane. During the course of the examination it was further agreed that a requirement should be attached to any DCO granted obliging the Applicant to obtain CBC’s approval of a detailed lighting strategy before commencing work .... Thereafter, the approved lights would have to be provided before the plant commences operation. Other controls would operate to preclude external lights other than those approved being installed.
5.111 With regard to the stack, this would be lit with three medium intensity red obstruction lights (including one high-level light positioned within 1 m of the top of the stack and two mid-level lights facing west) in compliance with regulations and in agreement with Cranfield airport.
5.112 Given the safeguards that the requirement would achieve, our conclusion is that the impact of lighting is not a matter which should attract significant weight in our decision as to whether to make the proposed DCO”.

Such issues are though increasingly becoming a focus in planning.

Landmark Chambers Centre for Environmental Law will be hosting the first European screening of The City Dark on 17 November 2011 at the British Film Institute Southbank, London.

This  is a feature documentary about light pollution and the disappearing night sky from the New York-based Wicked Delicate Films. It premiered earlier this year at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and has since won several prizes in film festivals across the United States. Guests will include the film's creator, Ian Cheney, who is joining us from New York, representatives from the British Astronomical Association's 'Campaign for Dark Skies', and other leading light pollution experts.

There are a limited number of tickets still available for the premiere. Should you be interested in attending, please email: marketing@landmarkchambers.co.uk.