UK Dark Skies legislation useless to Amateur Astronomers

13 years 10 months ago #33374 by albertw

This from the UK's darksky list.

You will remember that the UK introduced some light pollution
legislation. As the CfDS pointed out at the time, and as ILPAC pointed
out to our Minister for the Environment, while it was to be welcomed,
it didnt go far enough. Specifically the premesis that were exempt and
the requirement for a nuisance to be shown were highlighted as

The CfDS gave a presentation regarding the possible legal issues of
the bill in the recent conference and pointed out that the largest
problem was the definition of a nuisance and whether astronomers woulf
be considered hypersensitive. They were particularly concerned that a
precident case from 1851 (NOT a typo!) would be the downfall of

And here is the result. Despite the Commons select committee
recognising the scientific importance of amateur astronomy (their
report was titled 'Light Pollution and Astronomy'), DEFRA has
relagated it to simply a 'hobby'. Hobbies being 'elegant or dainty
modes and habits of living' and not concerning 'ordinary physical
comfort of human existence' means that this legislation will be of no
use to amateur astronomers.

This decision is following the letter of the law but not its spirit
and the CfDS are already asking for letter to be written to MP's
regarding this.

Darren Baskill put it nicley in a reply yesterday "The conclusion is
that there are still no laws that exist to put a halt to light
pollution. The Clean Neighbourhoods act is useless, so we must carry
on campaigning for a useful law."

- Hide quoted text -

Forwarded message
From: Mark Edwards <>
Date: Sep 26, 2006 3:44 PM
Subject: [CFDS] Ruling from DEFRA
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The EHO of Rugby Borough Council has received this reply from DEFRA re
my complaint of light nuisance:-

"Summary of Guidance

Under s79(1)(fb) "artificial light emitted from premises so as to be
prejudicial to health or a nuisance" is a statutory nuisance.
Artificial light is a statutory nuisance under this section if (a) it
is a "nuisance", i.e. the light has a material adverse impact on the
"ordinary physical comfort of human existence" or (b) the light is
"prejudicial to health".

However, if the complaint is based solely on light sources hindering
or restricting a hobby we do not consider this constitutes a statutory
nuisance under this section.

Statutory nuisance under s79(1)(fb) where the act is "prejudicial to health".

Where artificial light emitted from premises adversely affects the
health of a person, then a statutory nuisance may be committed under
s79(1)(fb) EPA.

Test for "nuisance" under s79(1)(fb) EPA

A statutory nuisance under s79(1)(fb) EPA is light that is either a
"nuisance" or is "prejudicial to health". The test for what
constitutes a "nuisance" and therefore a statutory nuisance under this
section is the same as the common law test. The test to be applied
when considering whether an act is a "nuisance" is whether the act
complained of " an inconvenience materially interfering with the
ordinary physical comfort of human existence, not merely according to
elegant or dainty modes and habits of living, but according to plain
and sober and simple notions." See Walter v Selfe (1851) 4 De G & Sm
315, 322 per Knight Bruce V-C.

Under the test set out above, the question is as follows: is a hobby
an ordinary physical comfort of human existence?

We consider hobbies do not constitute an "ordinary physical comfort
of human existence". Hobbies are clearly distinguishable from ordinary
physical comforts of human existence such as the need to sleep or be
free from noise or dust or (poignant) smell.

Therefore we do not consider that interference with a hobby can
constitute a "nuisance" and therefore an actionable statutory nuisance
under s79(1)(fb) EPA.


A local authority should investigate complaints of statutory nuisance
from artificial light where the act could constitute a "nuisance"
under the test set out above or is directly "prejudicial to health."
It is not relevant to the complaint if a hobby is affected."

Note the references to "hobby" - the EHO is determined to avoid
talking about the science of astronomy and the protection of the
night-time environment. This amounts to ignoring the angler who
complains that the fish are dying because of polluted rivers - it's
only a hobby......

Mark Edwards

Albert White MSc FRAS
Chairperson, International Dark Sky Association - Irish Section

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13 years 10 months ago #33403 by Keith g
Replied by Keith g on topic Re:
As the old saying goes, the law is an ass ! :evil: It's ridiculus to think that a new 'law' introduced, is now relegated to a more or less usless piece of text, since it is considered ineffective against what it is supposed to do in the first place.

The fight goes on....... :arrow:


If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson

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13 years 10 months ago #33407 by johnflannery
harzardous to human health. Hmmm, could being bad for your blood pressure count? It would be up to the Council to counter otherwise. I think that definition is very wishy-washy and with a decent legal arguement any action against light-pollution from neighbours interfering with a hobbyist astronomer would succeed.

my 2 cent,


John Flannery ( aurorawatcher - at * gmail - dot * com ... remove hyphens/asterisks/spaces for email)
The chicken's motive for crossing the road would not be questioned in an ideal world

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