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  • Becoming a Dark Sky Park will reinforce the status of Northumberland as an unspoiled destination offering a true sense of tranquility and wildness – a tonic in this day and age.

    Tony Gates, Chief Executive, Northumberland National Park

The challenge

When an area is granted dark-sky status by The International Dark Skies Association, this means that the night sky is protected and lighting controls are in place to prevent light pollution.

Northumberland National Park covers approximately one fifth of the county area and, together with Kielder Water and Forest Park, which adjoins it, is classed as one of the largest open sky areas in Europe – achieving dark-sky status would help protect, preserve and maintain this valuable asset.

The National Park Authority wasn’t asking everyone to turn off their lights but wanted to encourage the use of better lighting using the latest technology, which will shine light downwards where and when it’s needed and to protect the night sky. To do this, it needed to identify all of the proper ties with the park that emitted light.

The solution

The National Park initially had to define what area of the park that it was going to submit in its application for Dark Sky Park status. Using a combination of OS MasterMap Topography Layer and other contextual mapping products, an area was defined. An initial view shed analysis was also conducted using the OS Terrain 50 height dataset for building visibility of settlements that bordered the park. AddressBase Plus was then used to identify all of the properties that fall within the Northumberland Dark Sky Park boundary; the team then printed off maps and visited each property to perform lighting assessments.

By using AddressBase Plus, the team saved a considerable amount of time, not having to visit barns and non-habitable buildings that do not emit any external lighting. This in turn has allowed the team to focus their effort on analysing the extent of light being emitted from habitable buildings.

The benefits

By using AddressBase Plus to specifically target and survey just the 1,538 postal addresses within the park boundary that did emit light, reduced the amount of time spent on the survey from approximately five weeks to three weeks (a reduction of 40%). This is an equivalent cost saving of £2,500.

By overlaying the postal addresses from AddressBase Plus on top of Ordnance Survey base mapping products, The National Park was able to define smaller areas from which to target the survey effort, thus reducing travel time.

A new lighting management plan will guide planning authorities in ensuring that new developments take account of the night sky – and Ordnance Survey data was used to help with defining the area and identifying lighting that needed adjusting.

The result has been that Northumberland National Park was granted International Dark Sky Park status in December 2013, with the International Dark Skies Association (IDA), based in Tucson, Arizona, granting it gold status, which is the highest accolade it can bestow.

The products used

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