Protect the night skies from light pollution

Further to the interesting article in the Midhurst and Petworth Observer, many of us living around Black Down, Marley and Valewood would be delighted for the SDNPA to seek to protect formally the dark night sky in this rural part of our new National Park.

We are fortunate in having unusually dark night skies here, so much so that in February this year Black Down hosted a very successful stargazing event as part of the national star-gazing week that was widely featured on BBC television.

It would also fit very well with another excellent National Park initiative, likely to be supported with Heritage Lottery funding, to link up the areas of environmentally sensitive heathland which run almost unbroken from Black Down through Marley and Lynchmere Commons all the way through to Woolbeding.

This scheme would extend vital habitats to many endangered heathland species, particularly reptiles and butterflies, and might require the use of cattle grids across minor country lanes, such as Marley Lane, to allow grazing stock to help maintain the heathy landscapes more freely.

However, it has been both disappointing and baffling for local people who wholeheartedly support these conservation programmes to find that the SDNP planners seem to wish to run rough-shod over them. At the same time as the SDNPA conservationists are initiating some excellent schemes, their planners seem happy to recommend approval of the sort of major developments that most believed park status exempted us from, and which will not only add to traffic on country lanes, but also cause significant extra light pollution.

I refer in particular to the current planning applications at Rosemary Park care home in Marley Lane, although other major schemes, such as St Cuthman’s, are a similar threat. The proposal to extend by half St Magnus Hospital at Rosemary Park will enlarge a building which already lights up an otherwise dark hillside at night, thus adding significantly to the night light from this inappropriate lone ‘beacon’. The additional traffic generated by 32 more patients being resident there will not only jeopardise the quality of the heathland project, but also cause further damage to, and congestion on Marley lane, which is already deteriorating alarmingly fast.

It would be very welcome if the National Park could manage some ‘joined-up thinking’ and for their planners to realise the park has been established to protect the countryside above all else.

Emma Johnstone

Marley Common