Light Pollution Control
Artificial light is essential in our modern society and we all use it for many different things including:
- To light streets and roads at night
- As a security measure to protect homes and businesses
- To increase the hours we can play sports outdoors
However, increased use of lighting has resulted in problems. Light in the wrong place at the wrong time can be intrusive and there have been more complaints about light pollution in recent years.
So what can you do to help reduce it and what can you do if you experience light pollution?
What is light pollution?
Light pollution can be described as artificial light allowed to illuminate, or pollute, areas not intended to be lit.
It consists of several elements:
- Light trespass – light spilling beyond the boundary of the property on which a light is located, sometimes shining through windows and curtains.
- Glare – the uncomfortable brightness of a light source when viewed against a darker background.
- Sky glow – the pink or orange glow we see for miles around towns and cities caused by a scattering of artificial light by airborne dust and water droplets.
Sources of light pollution include security lights that light up buildings and their surroundings, floodlights used to illuminate games pitches, places of entertainment, street lighting, advertising and display lighting.
Light pollution can harm people’s quality of life. For example, it can disturb sleep when it shines into homes. It can also interfere with our view of the night sky.
The pollution itself is waste energy and is therefore a waste of resources and money.
Most importantly light pollution has an impact on the ecology and wildlife of an area, affecting the behavioural patterns of mammals, birds, insects and fish.
Tackling the problem
The extent of light pollution can be dramatically reduced by a number of simple inexpensive measures. And you can play your part in reducing complaints of light pollution by asking yourself:
- Is the lighting necessary?
- Are there other options, such as erecting a fence rather than installing a security light?
- Are all unnecessary lights switched off?
- Could you install a timer for the light? Is the light causing a nuisance to others?
Make sure that your lights are not wasteful
Use minimum wattage lamps. For domestic security lights a 150W lamp is adequate. High power lamps (300/500W) create too much glare, reducing security.
A 9W lamp is adequate for an all-night porch in most situations.
Angle your lights downwards, so they only illuminate the surface intended and do not throw light onto a neighbouring property. Main beam angles of all lights should be below 70 degrees, to reduce the effects of glare.
Security lights should be correctly adjusted, to only pick up the movement of people in the area intended, and not beyond.
Direct lights downwards. If up-lighting has to be used, install hoods or shields above the light, to reduce the amount of wasted upward light. Do not install equipment that spreads light above the horizontal.
The best method of dealing with light pollution is at the planning stage of new developments. This is an ideal time to influence the design or installation of lighting schemes.
However, only developments involving building engineering or making material changes to existing buildings or land require planning consent.
If you have concerns about proposals that may contribute to light pollution, please contact the Planning Services Team at Torfaen County Borough Council on 01633 647324.
What can I do?
Tackle the source
If you are experiencing light pollution from your neighbours try to speak to them and suggest the following possible remedies:
- Re-angling or partial shading of the light.
- Fitting of a passive infra red sensor.
- Using a lower power bulb.
It might help if you can show the neighbours the effect of the light from your side of the fence. You could also suggest that they may be wasting money on excessive lighting.
Contact the Council
From 1 April 2006, light pollution was brought into the definition of a 'statutory nuisance'. This is defined as "artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance".
It constitutes a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (provision added by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005).
Light generated at a variety of types of premises are exempt from this new law, these area as follows: airports/harbour/railway/tramway/bus premises and any associated facilities, public service vehicle operating centres, goods vehicle operating centres, lighthouses and prisons.
In addition a statutory defence of 'best practicable means' will be available to:
- Artificial light emitted from industrial, trade or business premises.
- Artificial light emitted by lights used for the purpose only of illuminating an outdoor relevant sports facility.
We can investigate complaints about both residential and commercial premises and need the following information:
- Your name and address (we are not able to deal with anonymous complaints, but we will not disclose your name to the person that you are complaining about without asking you first).
- The address where the light is coming from and the name of the person responsible if you know it.
- How the light is affecting you.
- When and how often it occurs.
To make a complaint contact Pollution Enforcement on 01633 647287.
How will my complaint be dealt with?
In the first instance we will write to the person causing the light problem and offer advice. Often people are not aware that they are causing a problem. However if the problem continues we ask you to complete a diary and return it to us.
If the diary sheets are not returned we will assume that the warning letter has resolved your complaint and that no further action is required.
Once your record sheets have been returned an officer will contact you and discuss the case with you, setting out the method they will use to investigate your complaint.
What actions can we take?
The information you provide on the diary sheets will help the case officer to assess the light problem and decide what action can be taken.
We can take action if the light pollution is a nuisance in law (a "statutory nuisance"). We will assess the light to see if it is sufficient to be a nuisance.
We can then serve a notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requiring the light pollution to be stopped.
You may be able to take private action for nuisance regarding a lighting problem, if you can show to a court that you are being unreasonably disturbed.
A nuisance can be described as ‘a substantial interference with an individual’s use and enjoyment of his or her property’.
If you wish to follow this route, we advise you to contact the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or a solicitor, to find out what action may be appropriate to deal with your complaint.
Last Modified: 11/10/2021
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