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Before we consider your choices for lamps we need to get this subject of light pollution out of the way. This is really important stuff and reading it could save you a lot of time and trouble.
Badly designed, poorly maintained and incorrectly installed external lights around the home can have detrimental effects on your neighbours’ lives and health, especially those ‘security’ floodlights that are often regarded as the panacea for all ills. Lots of people do actually enjoy the night time environment and like to sleep in darkness. Imagine what it would be like to have a neighbour’s security light shining into your bedroom window when you’re trying to sleep. The negative effects of polluting lights extend beyond us humans as they can confuse night flying birds, kill millions of insects each year and can cause other negative ecological effects. Poorly directed light also wastes money and adds to our carbon footprint.
Being a keen amateur astronomer I thoroughly enjoy my star gazing sessions on a clear and moonless night, but just one, badly directed security floodlight can seriously affect my ability to see the detail in the night sky. It’s a shame that this largely unnecessary light source is being used by householders. I don’t blame my neighbours for buying them. They read what it says on the boxes: ‘High Security Floodlight - Protect yourselves from burglars’ ; and if you’ve just been the victim of a burglary...?
The fact is that whilst these floodlights are useful for investigating a noise in the garden, when you have manually switched them on, they are nothing more than a nuisance when left on automatic. Even when the floodlight has been aimed in the right direction (preferably below 70°) and the detector angled so as not to detect the neighbour’s rabbit they are still a nuisance. Have you experienced them at your friends’ evening barbeque where they repeatedly blind you as you chew on a drumstick?
In my opinion and that of many of my former crime prevention colleagues in the police service and professionals in the lighting industry there is sometimes an overuse and inappropriate use of light; not just for security, but for other purposes, such as the floodlighting of buildings and advertising hoardings (at 3 o’clock in the morning).
I was once told that the science curriculum of our High Schools includes the teaching about and recognition of twenty or so star constellations. This fine educational goal is unfortunately thwarted by the fact that our 21 st century obsession with electric light means that only seven of them can be seen from most of our inner cities!
Light pollution and statutory nuisance
These days you’ve got to be very careful about your use of lighting around the home as relatively new legislation can get you into deep water if your lights have been deemed to cause a nuisance.
After many years of campaigning by a number of bodies, including the British Astronomical Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, legislation was passed in 2003 that enabled Local Authorities to take action against people if their lights were causing a nuisance to others.
The Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2003 gave powers to local authorities in England and Wales to investigate complaints about light coming from domestic security lights and if found to be a nuisance enabled them to issue an abatement notice forcing the owner to take some action to prevent the nuisance from continuing. The same legislation allowed a private court case to be taken against a neighbour.
The Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act of 2005 then made amendments to Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 , which gave a duty to local authorities in England and Wales to proactively inspect their area from time to time looking for instances of artificial light nuisance from premises. If such nuisance lighting was found they were to take reasonably practicable steps to investigate complaints of such nuisance and serve an abatement notice under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 where a statutory nuisance is occurring or is likely to occur.
For further information about light pollution please visit:
Updated July 2017