VIEWS of the night sky above the South Downs National Park could be protected if a bid to turn it into a dark sky reserve is successful.
Park rangers and astronomers are measuring light pollution on the South Downs, which stretch from Hampshire, across most of the Midhurst and Petworth area and across to East Sussex.
The national park authority will then apply to become an international dark sky reserve.
In February the Brecon Beacons joined the Exmoor national park in having reserve status.
The status means the night sky is protected and lighting restrictions can be introduced to prevent light pollution.
A spokesman from the South Downs National Park Authority, said there were ‘many stringent requirements’ to becoming a reserve.
“Needless to say, with the amount of residents dispersed across the Downs, this makes the task that much more difficult.”
The spokesman added: “This is a big challenge, unlike places like Exmoor and the Brecon Beacons, we don’t know yet exactly where the dark areas suitable for designation actually are.
“They will be in small isolated pockets because we don’t have large tracts of uninhabited open access land like these other National Parks.
“However the fact that we have these small pockets of darkness surrounded by a large population makes their protection even more important.”
She said initial measurements in Hampshire and West Sussex were consistent with being awarded the status.
One rule of a dark skies reserve was the adoption of planning guidance for appropriate lighting based on the Institute of Lighting Professionals recommendations.
The latest news from the South Downs National Park comes in the wake of a survey which revealed that visitors to England’s newest national park, designated in 2009, spend an estimated £464.4m each year.
About 46.3m visitor days were spent in the South Downs in 2011-12, of which some 6.4m were made by local people. The study found their spending supported 8,200 jobs.
Of the day visits recorded, only 1.9m, or four per cent were from people staying overnight in the park compared to 6.8m by visitors sleeping in accommodation outside the park.
The South Downs Visitor and Tourism Economic Impact Study was the first visitor survey since it became England’s tenth national park.
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