Good light on the Isle of Wight

I attended CPRE Isle of Wight’s AGM on Saturday.  The day before I was given a fascinating tour around the island by John Langley, the branch Chair, looking at some of the issues the branch is facing.

There are always issues, of course, and the branch has plenty on its plate. In particular I heard the familiar story of community activists stopping inappropriate developments, in this case badly sited wind turbines, but unable to celebrate because they are sure the developer (or another developer) will come back again and again until everyone gets too tired to resist and the development is agreed.

I understand why people fighting developments in the countryside feel beleaguered.  But for all the threats, what a stunningly beautiful place the Isle of Wight is!  The people are also unusually polite and friendly – I am sure they get fed up with visitors saying that going to the Island is like travelling back in time thirty years, but it is.

One thing CPRE Isle of Wight does particularly well is to accentuate the positive.   At the AGM, the branch presented its Good Lighting Award, a great initiative to acknowledge people and businesses who (knowingly or not) have helped reduce light pollution.

The first award went to St Francis Primary School in Upper Ventnor, whose new buildings stop light spilling into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The main winner was a small business, Baring Chambers, who use ‘enclosed lighting that shines exactly where it is needed’ to light up their shop front.

Hats off to both winners, but the scheme that interested me most was that of Island Roads, a Private Finance Initiative that has taken over from the Council’s highways department.  I dislike the PFI model (cheap now, costly in the long run) but Island Roads is doing a great job replacing street lights across the Island with up-to-date LED units which throws light downwards.

The Isle of Wight already suffers less from light pollution than much of the mainland, but this scheme should remove the orange glow over its larger towns.  Let us hope that other councils think of dark skies when they replace their (costly and inefficient) street lights.  And if ending ‘night blight’ is not sufficient encouragement, they could do it to save money and reduce carbon.

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