The Brecon Beacons Dark Skies Project
The Brecon Beacons, especially the northern and western sections of the park, are one of the few dark areas still remaining in the UK . The Park Society and the Park Authority feel that preserving the quality of the night sky is important and as a result have initiated the Brecon Beacons Dark Sky project as a joint endeavour between those organisations.
The objectives of the project are to combat the growing encroachment of light pollution into the Brecon Beacons National Park and the surrounding area, mitigate the adverse effects of this pollution, and raise awareness and understanding of this special quality of the National Park. In so doing it is also the intention to gain International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) status for the Brecon Beacons National Park from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
The overall approach of the project is a collaborative one, with alliances to be formed with many local organisations to benefit from local experience and expertise, and to maximise the feeling of ownership of the project within communities in the Park. Major activities in the project include –
- Feasibility Assessment
- Negotiation with the International Dark Sky Association
- Fundraising and Project Planning
- Night Sky Quality Survey
- Educational Outreach
- Development of External Lighting Guidelines
- Audit of existing External Lighting
- Community Liaison and Communication
The feasibility assessment phase of the project concluded that the objectives are attainable and we have obtained almost all of the funding needed through the award in May 2011 of a £15,000 grant from the Brecon Beacons Trust. This will allow this 18 month project to proceed to the benefit of the National Park, its residents and visitors.
Collaborations have been formed with the University of Glamorgan and Dark Sky Wales who will be leading the Night Sky Quality Survey and the Educational Outreach activities.
The Chief Executive of the IDA visited the BBNP for two days to be briefed on the project and discuss the interpretation (and possible modification) of their criteria for gaining International Dark Sky Reserve status with respect to applications from National Parks in Europe. He was comfortable with what we are doing in the project, approved our proposed Core Area (where there will be basically zero external lighting) and was impressed by the BBNP as a candidate for accreditation. However the IDA clarified that we must apply for IDSR status on behalf of the whole of the park (rather than a dark section of it) which meant some re thinking on our part and an expansion of some of our planned activities.
Lighting Guidelines will allow us to both assess the quality of the existing external lighting, and to ensure that future developments involving external lighting conform to this standard and so do not contribute additional light pollution.A lighting engineering consultant, who is very experienced in guiding organisations to IDA accreditation, has been engaged to produce Lighting Guidelines and to carry out an assessment of the standard of the existing external lighting in the Park. An initial audit of external lighting has been carried out and, as street lighting is a major contributor to light pollution, several meetings have been held with lighting engineers from local government.
Additional funding was applied for from the Science and Technology Facilities Council and although this was unsuccessful at this time we were invited to reapply in the next round and we are of course investigating other sources of funding. However, if we have no luck the project will continue to be viable within the current funding level, we will simply cut our cloth appropriately.
The University of Glamorgan will be running the Night Sky Quality Survey over the 2011/2012 winter with potentially some input from school students. A parallel joint initiative to establish a small observatory at the mountain centre is being assessed.
A Communications Plan is being developed to spread the word on and gain buyin to the project is getting underway. Related to this, work is ongoing in securing support and collaboration from other organisations and individuals. So far, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW), the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and local and government politicians have all leant their support, and additionally a number of tourism businesses are also engaged with the project.
In summary, issues are arising as they always do in projects but they are being dealt with and progress is being made. Thanks are due to those Society members who have volunteered to help on the project. Your input will be very welcome as the project activities ramp up.
To find out more about this topic in general, visit:
The International Dark Sky Association http://www.darksky.org/
The British Astronomical Association http://www.britastro.org/dark-skies/
And here are a couple of videos:-
Click here to go back to Dark Skies page.
And if you want to join in or find out more about the Brecon Beacons Dark Skies Project please contact Jim Wilson using the Contact Form below.