While there are some exemptions (including airports, railway premises and bus stations) this is a victory for astronomers who have been campaigning to protect the night skies from light pollution. The Act forces local authorities, when granting planning permission, to ensure that outdoor lighting does not add to light pollution.
This welcome change comes as a result of pressure from the British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies, supported by the RAS, which, in 2003, encouraged the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to produce a ground breaking study of light pollution.
The Report concluded…
‘The majority of professional astronomy now takes place outside of the United Kingdom. This is due to the poor and unpredictable weather conditions of the British Isles, their hemispherical position and to the continuing encroachment of light pollution on British skies. However, astronomy remains a growth subject of academic study, as demonstrated by the increase in the number of students at GCSE, undergraduate and postgraduate level. This Report emphasises the importance of the amateur astronomy community in the UK. Whilst many observe the stars for purely aesthetic pleasure, there is a thriving community of amateurs who provide important observational data to grateful professional astronomers. Amateur astronomical societies, along with professional astronomers based in the UK, are also instrumental in introducing young and future scientists to astronomy and physics through open days at observatories and by bringing mobile planetaria to schools and groups. Most importantly of all, amateur societies have been attempting for over ten years to educate local authorities, government, lighting retailers and the general public about the problems caused by light pollution. Light pollution has grown to such an extent that it threatens the remaining dark skies in the rural areas of the UK. Astronomers have been joined by the Campaign to Protect Rural England in an attempt to persuade government that education and exhortion alone are not enough to stem the swathe of light ruining the night sky for everyone. We agree’.