At last – action on Dark Skies by PCNPA

Stung into action (perhaps) by the Brecon Beacons National Park having become a Dark Skies Reserve, the PCNPA (Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority) has finally taken action to capitalise on the excellent dark skies in some parts of the park.

NAEG has focussed on these dark skies on a number of occasions. See this article about Newport’s dark skies (from 2011) and also by participating in Star Count – as discussed here. We would like to think we had some influence on the PCNPA change of direction, but rather doubt it.

The Park has now initiated a project to identify those areas with excellent dark skies which could be designated as “Dark Sky Discovery Sites”. These sites could then be used to promote “park at night” experiences and the park in general. This is welcome news and the plan seems very reasonable to me as obviously the entire National Park is not suitable.

This project is discussed in recent minutes of the National Park Authority, and I am copying an extract from those minutes below.

10. Night Sky Quality Survey 2015  Final Draft  (6th May 2015)

It was reported that the purpose of the Dark Sky Places programme was to recognise areas with dark skies and commit the relevant authorities to maintaining and improving them. Brecon Beacons National Park had become a designated Dark Sky Reserve and Snowdonia National Park was working towards becoming one.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park did not lend itself to being a Dark Sky Reserve or Dark Sky Park because it is relatively small, ribbon-like and was affected by significant light sources on the Milford Haven. Instead officers had sought to identify a series of potential Dark Sky Discovery Sites across the National Park. These were described as small, accessible observation sites with good night sky quality. There was currently only one Dark Sky Discovery site in the National Park: the National Trust’s car park at Broad Haven South. A spread of such sites could help raise the profile of the Park, not only for stargazers and photographers but as part of more general ‘Park-at-night’ type experiences potentially out of the main visitor season.

TACP Consultants had successfully bid for the work and were tasked with identifying a shortlist of ten potential Dark Sky Discovery sites within the National Park, and with providing some recommendations on protection and promotion of these sites, as well as of dark skies more generally in the National Park. Their report had been circulated to Members.

Subject to Members’ endorsement of the Survey, it was proposed that it was circulated to and discussed with relevant land ownerships and interested parties by officers. This would allow partners to agree whether Dark Sky Discovery status should be applied for each and if so how each site would be promoted in a coherent way as part of the wider National Park recreational and visitor offer.

Members commended what they believed to be an excellent report, considering that the designation of Discovery sites would add to the enjoyment of the National Park. They asked whether officers could be more proactive in approaching major development such as the refineries and large harbours to ask if lighting levels could be reduced without compromising health and safety. Officers replied that lighting was a cost to all companies and it was thought unlikely that the energy would be used unnecessarily, however an approach could be made.

It was RESOLVED that the Sky Quality Survey be endorsed as a basis for discussion between the National Park Authority and partner organisations in putting forward Dark Sky Discovery Sites for designation.

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