Satellite maps of England’s light pollution and dark skies, released today by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), have shown that Northumberland is the darkest National Park.
The maps, produced using satellite images captured at 1.30 am throughout September last year, also show that the county of Northumberland came out on top for the highest percentage of night skies free of light pollution at 72 per cent and it was ranked second overall for the darkest counties in England. In the park itself, 96 per cent of the area had pristine night skies with very little light pollution elsewhere.
Northumberland, which received the International Dark Sky Park designation in 2013, is Europe’s largest area of protected night sky at 572 square miles. It has also been awarded gold tier status by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), making it officially the best place in England for people to enjoy the heavens.
Tony Gates, Northumberland National Park Authority's chief executive, said: "We welcome today’s CPRE report which supports the objectives in our Park Management Plan to protect our IDA designation.
"In all our planning activities we continually seek opportunities to preserve and improve the situation. This includes offering pre-planning advice, where we advise on how all developments, large and small, can preserve the Dark Sky Park. We also use this opportunity to proactively promote dark sky lighting good practice.
"We continue to work closely with Northumberland County Council to improve the dark skies surrounding the Park and having developed recognised best practices, our own team of experts are also now advising other National Parks and local authorities to support them in improving and preserving dark skies in their areas."
County councillor and chairman of the Authority, Glen Sanderson, added: "We are rightly proud of our dark skies, but, like elsewhere, light pollution is a constant threat and we will continue our positive work with Northumberland County Council to improve and minimise light pollution in areas bordering the Park.
"Neighbourhood planning was introduced through the Localism Act in 2011 and gives local communities the opportunity to shape and define how their area should grow and change in the future. A number of new neighbourhood plans are currently being developed and it is encouraging to see a growing support for dark sky conservation policies at a local level."
To view the maps, go to http://nightblight.cpre.org.uk/
To find out more about star-gazing events in Northumberland, go to http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/darkskies