Dinton Pastures Activity Centre

The following is our submission to Wokingham Borough Council to the request for comments prior to planning permission being applied for.

Gerry Bond, gerry.bond@readingastro.org.uk

I am writing in capacity as events’ co-ordinator for the Reading Astronomical Society which, despite its name is in the Wokingham borough. In addition I am the reference person for the Commission for Dark Skies in (old) Berkshire.

I am concerned that at this stage any part of this development would emit exterior lighting which would preclude any group from being able, at a future date, to successfully hold any event needing the darkest sky possible. In other words there should be fitted the means to contain light coming from inside the building, particularly the 1st floor rooms. I note the first floor contains a meeting room which will have blackout blinds for watching projected media in any case.

In the case of other outdoor lighting the latest standards should be complied with, but in the particular case of astronomical events, switching or screening provided to allow an area of open ground to be free from light trespass from the building or car parking.

It should also be noted that exterior lighting of all kinds is now recognised as a cause of the major decline in insect numbers, particularly for insect reproduction. It is surely the case that the park is taking the opportunity to review all lighting on its property with a view to installing correct aiming and shading by the luminaires, together with consideration of the best colour-spectrum to conserve insect life.

The International Dark-sky Association has now introduced a new category which allows for the possibility of creating a recognized dark-sky park within an urban area. I have written this definition at the end of this feedback. It is open for either the Reading Astronomical Society or WBC to submit a proposal to the IDA. I propose to start enquiries on behalf of RAS understanding that it is a long process and not necessarily successful, but even in the latter event, has demonstrated Wokingham’s environmental approach.

Definition: Urban Night Sky Places

An IDA Urban Night Sky Place is a municipal park, open space, observing site, or other similar property near or surrounded by large urban environs whose planning and design actively promote an authentic night-time experience in the midst of significant artificial light. By virtue of their characteristics, these sites do not qualify for designation within any other International Dark Sky Places category. However, they are worthy of recognition for their efforts to educate the public on the benefits of proper outdoor lighting that ensures public safety while minimizing potential harm to the natural night-time environment.