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Two UK national parks gain Dark Sky Reserve status

Matt Gibson Photography

By Amy Murphy, PA

Two UK national parks have been designated International Dark Sky Reserves in what has been described as a “significant step towards protecting dark skies across much of northern England”.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has granted reserve status to the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors national parks – an area covering more than 3,600 square kilometres and one of the largest areas in Europe to be simultaneously designated.

The parks – home to some of the darkest skies in the country, with large areas of unpolluted night sky – now join a group of just 16 certified Dark Sky Reserves across the world.

The IDA, based in Tucson, Arizona, is the recognised authority on light pollution and the leading organisation combating light pollution worldwide.

The association works to protect the night skies for present and future generations and awards reserve status to areas that possess exceptional quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment.

It has taken five years for the two Yorkshire national parks to apply for and achieve Dark Sky Reserve status, in a process that involved submitting light meter readings and having at least two-thirds of properties with “dark-sky-friendly lighting”.

The parks said the designation will help promote locations, events and businesses, enhance habitats for wildlife, improve health and wellbeing, and bring increased economic benefit to the local tourist industry.

They also plan to promote the importance of dark sky-friendly lighting – reducing unnecessary consumption of electricity and minimising carbon footprints and energy costs for households.

A spokesman for the parks said: “A reserve consists of a core area which, on designation, must meet the criteria for natural darkness and be of a high quality as well as a peripheral area that supports the dark sky in the core.

“Having successfully secured this status, the whole of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and North York Moors National Park become Dark Sky Reserves.

“At a combined 3,615 km sq, this represents the largest area in the UK, and one of the biggest in Europe, to be simultaneously designated, and is a significant step towards protecting dark skies across much of northern England.”

Jim Bailey, chairman of the North York Moors National Park Authority, said the area “looks set to have a better, darker future”.

He said: “It’s a wonderful thing to see a meteorite streak across the night sky, or to look up and appreciate the brilliance of the Milky Way.

“As a child, I took these sights for granted, but now it’s absolutely something we need to protect for generations to come.”

Neil Heseltine, chairan of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, welcomed the opportunity to protect the area’s dark skies.

He said: “Those lucky enough to live in the Yorkshire Dales National Park know what it is to experience the wonder of some of the darkest skies in the country and it’s thrilling that the Dales has received recognition for one of its most special qualities.”

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