Two Suffolk councils have committed to reducing street light intensity across their districts – protecting plant and wildlife, and reducing energy costs, in line with biodiversity and climate change ambitions.
Following cross-party support for motions at recent Full Council meetings, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have both committed to reducing their artificial lighting. Including additional lighting control guidance within their Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), currently in development, was also approved.
This means any new or replacement artificial lighting in the district – whether in the form of street lighting, commercial and residential lighting, or advertising signage – will be expected to meet the lowest possible level of intensity and visual intrusion. Street lighting currently in use will also be looked at.
The move provides an opportunity for the councils to reduce their energy use, as well as the negative impacts on human health and wellbeing, and wildlife, caused by intense blue white light. A particular focus has been placed on protecting and enhancing dark skies for bats, owls and other nocturnal insect populations which are declining.
As Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are only responsible for a number of streetlights within their districts, they will be working with partners such as Suffolk County Council, suppliers, as well as community safety and wildlife groups, to help reduce wider light pollution.
It complements the councils’ climate change ambitions and Biodiversity Action Plan measures, to reduce carbon emissions, and strengthen and protect plant and wildlife. Some of these include, mapping existing and potential wildlife corridors and tree coverage, as well as wildflower, hedgerow and tree planting, among others.
Jessica Fleming, cabinet member for environment at Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “We recognise the sometimes conflicting role that artificial lighting plays; in making people feel safe, but also its negative impacts on both wildlife and humans.
“That’s why we want to make a difference wherever we can to find the best possible balance – and this commitment is a key step.
“This is a great example of councillors working together, across the political divide and it’s a win-win. It not only supports our biodiversity and climate change ambitions, but our residents, plant and wildlife’s health and wellbeing also.”
Dr Daniel Pratt, who proposed the motion in Mid Suffolk, said: “It’s great to see councillors, regardless of political party, again working together towards a common goal to tackle climate change and support biodiversity.
“White blue light is already known to have significant impacts on both human health, and on populations of bats, insects and other nocturnal wildlife – so taking steps to control and mitigate it’s use where we can is a definite step in the right direction.”
The motion at Babergh District Council, was proposed by Elisabeth Malvisi, cabinet member for climate change, biodiversity and sustainable transport.
She said: “We recognise that street lighting forms a significant aspect of our climate change and biodiversity ambitions, and that we need to protect our dark skies wherever we can.
“Light has well-known impacts on the biological rhythms and functions in both humans and animals, particularly in nocturnal insect species, and bats and owls. So, by reducing the intensity of our street and other lighting, we can make a difference for everyone – making sure Babergh is a safe place we, as well as our plant life and wildlife, are proud to call home.”