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Presteigne Dark Sky Masterplan: UK

The lighting industry has rapidly grown over the last century, bringing towns and cities to life, celebrating architecture and providing visibility at night. However, today we also need to face the impact of human-made lighting on the natural environment. Lighting accounts for nearly 6% of the global CO2 emissions, and 20% of the electricity used worldwide. Besides blighting the view of the night sky, inefficient lighting wastes more than £1bn a year in the UK alone.

Light pollution has drastic effects on the environment and wellbeing of all humans, animals and plants, altering our perception of the night and blocking our access to our oldest heritage, the stars. This therefore places an important responsibility on the global lighting industry to lead exemplary process.

As such, Dark Source, founded by Kerem Asfuroglu, is engaging in a new project that will look to drastically reduce light pollution in the Welsh town of Presteigne, while still effectively illuminating the streets for residents.

The project aims to put lighting design at the forefront of transforming the town into the first Welsh Dark Sky Community by using intelligent and sustainable lighting technology. Well executed lighting design can encourage nighttime activity, improve wayfinding and provide the community with a sense of reassurance, all while eliminating unnecessary light pollution. With this project, Dark Source hopes to raise the challenge, and fundamentally reconsider the way that we use lighting by focusing on the community and their needs.

Presteigne is a town in Wales surrounded by outstanding natural beauty and medieval heritage. The town’s nighttime ambience, its residents and observatory – The Spaceguard Centre, located 8km to its north – suffer from an excessive and outdated lighting scheme. Many complain about light nuisance, and it is now preventing the Spaceguard Centre from its important role in spotting unidentified objects, such as meteors. The area is also home to the endangered species of the horseshoe bat, which cannot come near bright lights. Considering that Wales has more land surface (18%) beneath protected dark skies than any other country on Earth, the only obstacle between Presteigne and dark skies is its current lighting, and the sky-glow that it generates.

The community of Presteigne hopes to use a holistic approach to address several issues, with the help of a new lighting masterplan. By employing the latest lighting and control technology, Presteigne will be able to reduce energy waste, become environmentally friendly, and an exemplary Dark Sky destination, while rejuvenating its nighttime ambience and economy by attracting visitors. The town has three main goals that it wishes to achieve with the new lighting masterplan: firstly, it hopes to minimise light pollution and its impact on biodiversity in order to achieve Dark Sky Community status. Doing so will mean that the town becomes recognised as a stargazing destination, which will bring year-round ecotourism.

The uneven distribution of the current lighting scheme means that some streets are overlit, while some are left in darkness. Focusing the light where it is needed, blocking upward traveling light, adopting warmer colour temperatures and advising residents and businesses are some of the key measures that would immediately restore the visibility of the night sky.

Once the project is completed, the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) in the US will review the project to validate its application for Dark Sky Status. Secondly, the project will look to introduce the latest in LED lighting and control technology. Presteigne’s current lighting scheme consists of a mixture of lamp types with different quality, intensity and colour temperatures. The new lighting scheme will aim to introduce the latest LED lighting and Bluetooth control technology to provide a holistic and consistent upgrade, while reducing the energy consumption and maintenance costs significantly.

The use of sensors, and the ability to control and dim the lights remotely will allow the town to regulate and monitor its power consumption. Finally, the third goal of the project is to enhance the nighttime character of the town, its experience and heritage architecture. Presteigne’s unique daytime character is lost at night due to its current street lighting, which is unsympathetic to the historic fabric, human scale experience and legibility. Uneven distribution of light degrades the visual contrast by excessive illumination at street level; it causes unwanted light spill on residential façades, while plunging the town’s key features and buildings into darkness. The new lighting scheme will look to enhance the nighttime experience by encouraging social activity after dark, restoring the historic significance of the unique architectural character, and improving the sense of safety by rendering the town legible.

The project is still in the process of gaining funding and sponsorship, for more information visit: www. gofundme.com/f/qsv9n-presteigne-dark-skymasterplan www.dark-source.com