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Light Pollution

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 21 June 2007

Stronger powers were provided to local authorities to tackle light pollution under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, which makes light pollution a statutory nuisance and enables individuals to take private action through the magistrates court.

Because of light pollution, half our population never see the stars of the galaxy in which we live. The Government love to talk about the environment, but why have we been waiting since December 2003 for the promised extension to planning guidance statement 23 to deal with the problem, and save energy at the same time? When will the Government publish that important document for consultation?

The right hon. Gentleman is right: there has been a delay, which I very much regret. I suspect that as it is a Department for Communities and Local Government issue it is tied up with the overall planning reform announced in the planning White Paper, but like him I hope that is brought forward as quickly as possible. That does not mean to say that the Government have been inactive. We have allocated £600 million to private finance initiative schemes to improve the quality of street lighting to reduce the amount of lighting that simply goes up into the sky and spoils the view, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly says. Progress has also been made in domestic and sports facilities lighting. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just reminded me that there is a climate change crossover, as well. Excessive illumination contributes to climate change. If the right hon. Gentleman is in London tonight, he may like to join in the “London lights out” campaign. I am sure that the House will be aware of the campaign—between 9 pm and 10 pm we are all expected to turn our lights out.

Does the Minister agree that one way to deal with the problems of light pollution would be for the Government to support the measures in my ten-minute Bill on tranquillity, which I introduced earlier in the Session? If the Minister is not willing to endorse the Bill at the Dispatch Box this morning, perhaps he would be willing to accept the principle behind it—that it is vital to measure tranquillity objectively and to protect and preserve it in future.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I will certainly reflect on the appeal that he makes to me. I share his concern about the amount of noise and light pollution in society. The Government have taken measures through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 and we will take further measures to address noise and light pollution. The quality of people’s lives is important and they expect politicians to address those concerns.