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West Cornwall community aiming for the stars with new bid for dark sky status

In a mission to preserve the amazing quality of the night sky in West Cornwall the local community is coming together, with support from Cornwall Council, to achieve International Dark Sky Reserve designation.

Bodmin Moor has already achieved an international dark sky designation, the first ever awarded to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and it means that the West Cornwall sky can also be protected from light pollution as well as providing a focus for awareness and learning about the stars and solar systems just as the Bodmin sky already is.

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Cornwall Council portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and public protection Rob Nolan said: “The designation status does not mean that the whole region will be plunged into darkness, its aim is to improve lighting so that it does not spill upwards and is not overly bright.

“Another part of Cornwall gaining dark sky status would be a real string to our bow - who wouldn’t want to visit and gaze at the beautiful Cornish night sky and learn more about our galaxy?”

Cornwall Councillor Sue James is leading the partnership bid, she said: “Part of the scheme involves an education outreach programme to encourage businesses and residents to get involved in protecting, improving and appreciating our dark skies. There are simple asks like ensuring lights face downwards and are only on when necessary; it's about influencing rather than enforcement.

"Darker skies help to protect our wildlife, providing them with a more natural environment, are good for humans getting restful sleep and enjoyed by astronomers".

A drop-in event is being held to find out other people’s views on 17 July at St Johns Hall in Penzance from 4pm - 7pm.

The core area of the designation will comprise the West Penwith section of the Cornwall AONB, with a protective buffer zone to the east which includes Penzance and St Ives. It is proposed that the buffer zone will be managed in the same way as the core area which means it will also capture the wide-ranging benefits of conserving the quality of the dark night sky which includes:

  • Scientific advantages – enabling enhanced conditions for astronomy;
  • Educational outreach – facilitating both formal education (at all levels) and more informal activities;
  • Enjoyment and appreciation – improving quality of life and provide creative inspiration;
  • Health – promoting improved sleep patterns and reducing stress;
  • Wildlife – providing a more natural environment for both nocturnal and diurnal animals; and
  • Energy efficiency – reducing wastage from unnecessary or excessive lighting.

These benefits can be harnessed without impacting on lighting needed by residents and businesses, including agricultural operations and vehicles.

Cornwall Council lighting has been upgraded across the county as part of the Invest to Save scheme which has improved efficiency and reduced light pollution.

More information can be found on the International Dark Sky Designation pages.