Comparative Environmental and Planning Law Relating to Light Pollution Control in England and Other Jurisdictions




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


The 24-hour day/night cycle naturally helps to maintain balance and stability within a nocturnal ecosystem. While the rhythms of the natural light-dark cycle of day and night are able maintain a stable balance with ecological and human-made activities in relation to the nature of lighting and darkness, light pollution still significantly reduces average human well-being, impacts on the visibility of faint night sky objects during the night with the naked eye and telescope, and damages the night environment. It can be defined as “every form of artificial light in the wrong place at the wrong time which creates a sky glow, glare, nuisance, and other relevant causes of environmental degradation including some properties of artificial light which emit non-environmentally friendly or inappropriate light.” Light pollution can reduce human health, interfere with the nocturnal and/or dark-sky environment, reduce transportation safety and waste lighting energy consumption. Therefore, hard laws and soft laws from international and national jurisdictions established a duty on local authorities to manage outdoor lights and control all key elements of light pollution so as to ensure that people are not exposed to risks to the night environment. These also include environmental risks arising from a sky glow when measuring the non-environmentally atmospheric smog that hangs over urban areas at night where the level of exterior lighting from outdoor light sources is relatively high. However, English law does not contain stage processes and responsibilities for local authorities to deal with all aspects of outdoor light pollution. It also does not contain powers concerning the use of certain measurable degrees of non-environmentally friendly light metric, together with powers for the Government to approve a single framework for the minimisation of sky glow in public atmospheric areas at night. The main purpose of this study is to use comparative law studies to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of light pollution laws in different jurisdictions where adopted legislation has been designed to limit light pollution from outdoor light fixtures and design, and to improve national or local light pollution regulatory frameworks by providing better outdoor lighting practices through making valuable contributions to a comparison of international, European, national and local light pollution laws and to the improvement of regulatory measures in English legal system. It also proposes to do so by illustrating key differences between England and other jurisdictions and examining a set of necessary or proportional regulatory standards to combat light pollution. This research’s review of the jurisdictions and the legal systems available for both light pollution control and sustainable lighting practices has highlighted the recent evidence of such influence of hard and soft law on legislation in selected countries. When comparative law on different jurisdictions is discussed, the influence of a comparative approach in each national or municipal light pollution law is, at most, one of finding inspiration in the procedure of establishing a number of necessary steps to reforming the English law of light pollution control in favour of a better solution. Taking legal action to reduce the effects of non-environmentally friendly or unnecessary lights at night provides an excellent opportunity to deliver further benefits to both environmental lighting practices and energy efficiency. This research also highlights the key legal aspects concerning light pollution and outlines the ways in which regulators and policy makers can make the most of the interconnections between regulatory measures to address key elements of outdoor light pollution, such as sky glow, glare and intrusive light. It is intended to outline a wider vision for how English law can prevent all key elements of light pollution. This research also comparatively examines why England should be committed to ensuring that the English regulatory measures compare favourably with the global and regional light pollution control standards in the highest performing jurisdictions, and establishes stringent legal requirements for light pollution control which measure up to the highest standards set internationally. In the final Chapter we present useful recommendations which highlight instances in which England should be able to promote the application of necessary principles and stage processes through comparative effectiveness for outdoor lighting practices by applying international, regional and national criteria for different forms of outdoor lighting practices.



Light Pollution, Environmental Law, Planning Law, English Law



Research Institute