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Starry sky Starry sky

The South East of England is the most densely populated and fast-growing region of the UK, so it's not surprising that its the most light-polluted area of the whole country. 91% of Greater London is light-saturated. The few square kilometres of truly dark land are found in pockets scattered across several counties and some distance from London, including the southern coast of the Isle of Wight.

Our region has smallest proportion of its total land area within the truly dark category – just 1%. Data shows that light pollution is a major problem and one that is growing.

It's not just that starry skies are wonderful to see. Light pollution is bad for your health! It can upset natural sleeping rhythms causing irritability and insomnia. It can increase headaches and cause anxiety. And it's not just human beings that are affected. Many organisms need the natural rhythms of light and dark for breeding, migration and feeding - light pollution can adversely affect whole eco-systems. 

And it wastes energy, and therefore precious natural resources. Turn the lights off! 

Tackling light nuisance

Intrusive lighting can now be dealt with under a new criminal offence. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act classifies light pollution as a statutory offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

However, the new powers are limited. It deals with light nuisance, such as a neighbour’s security light shining into your window, but not the light pollution that brightens the skies of Oxfordshire and obscures the stars. Street lights are excluded from prosecution under the Act, as are goods depots, bus and rail stations and airports. And that's a shame.

In many of Oxfordshire's villages, security lights from small industrial or business units, blazing all night can completely change the atmosphere of a community and not for the better!

What you can do

If you have a localised light pollution problem, make an accurate record of it. You may be able to resolve the problem amicably. If that fails, you can contact your local environmental health service:

  • Cherwell: 01295 221616 or 01295 221616
  • South Oxfordshire: 01491 823214 or 01491 823214
  • West Oxfordshire: 01993 861060 or 01993 861060
  • Oxford: 01865 252382 or 01865 252382

You will need to convince them that the light source is a nuisance, and that your health or the enjoyment of your property is affected. If that proves fruitless, you might try the courts, but the aim of Act is to find a way of redressing light nuisance without escalating neighbourhood disputes.

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