Stockport Lights up the Sky

Discuss the greatest threat to amateur astronomy today

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Colin Henshaw
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Stockport Skybeam

Post by Colin Henshaw »

Dhaka, Bangladesh.
There has been a good response locally against the Stockport Skybeam. The organisation responsible has now had to apply for retro-active planning permission, and has meanwhile been told to keep the thing switched off. Members of both Manchester Astronomical Society and the Altrincham & District Astronomical Society have submitted objections, along with a number of other amateur astronomers elsewhere around the country. I would like to thank all those who have submitted objections, but still urge others to do so. It is only when there is a massive response that we stand any chance of killing these schemes off once and for all. The planning committee will probably meet in January. They should now know that it is illegal under the terms of the 2005 Clean Neighbourhoods an Environment Act, in which case on those grounds alone, it should be terminated.
Colin Henshaw.
donnah
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Post by donnah »

I have just contacted someone to answer some questions on the Stockport light. I hope that this can help on the Barnsley issue.
Robin Scagell
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Post by Robin Scagell »

One partial solution occurs to me in cases where the perpetrators are hell bent on having their damned lights and no compromise seems possible: allow them to use them only on the three nights on either side of full Moon. Then at least they would not affect light pollution too seriously.

Of course, once something is installed there is always the danger that such a restriction will be ignored, or flouted 'in error' -- so it would be better not to give them the option at all.

Robin
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Post by spawebmaster »

No. I think that would be seen as a sign of weakness.
Also, once they were established on that basis, they would have a foothold from which to try to extend the allowable dates.
And following the logic of your argument, they might also turn round and say "why can't we use them when it is cloudy?"
(Before anyone suggests that might be OK, don't forget that it might not be cloudy a few miles down the road.)

Paul
Robin Scagell
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Post by Robin Scagell »

I have just been informed that the hearing is to be held on 9 January at Stockport Town Hall at 6 pm (as far as I can tell). I can't be there myself but any member who lives within reach is urged to go along and speak. To do so you should contact Mr J A Seymour on 0161 474 3656. The ref number is DC021404.

If no opposition turns up the application will go through. If everyone who reads this who is affected turns up it will have a major effect on the committee's decision -- though this is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Robin
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Robin
Hopefully there will be some representation from nearby astronomers and local societies who are most affected eg Manchester, Altrincham, Morley Green and Macclesfield. Unfortunately the Stockpotrt sky beam lighting application (and Barnsley scheme) does seem to prove that the lighting industry has no interest in light pollution at all.
Best wishes for the New year from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
Lawrie
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Post by Lawrie »

There was a good article in the Daily Telegraph today about light pollution and regretting that Govt. legislation seems likely to do litte to reduce it. Pity but may be the Stockport folk don't read the DT there?
Lawrie
BrianT
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Stockport Skybeam

Post by BrianT »

Hi folks, New to the forum so this is my first post. Any update on the planning hearing due early January??
Brian
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Re: Stockport Skybeam

Post by Brian »

BrianT wrote:Hi folks, New to the forum so this is my first post. Any update on the planning hearing due early January??
Brian, Welcome!

See "Stockport Skybeam" message from Colin Henshaw, dated Jan 21 (in this section) for an update

ATB,
Brian
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Bunny
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Post by Bunny »

Just a word about campaigning.

I suspect that the majority of people here are not that politically inclined, but campaigning can work. You might not win every battle, but is that any reason not to try? I say this simply as encouragement.

Campaigning has changed the law allowing greater rights for disabled people and the Civil Partnerships, etc. (I could go on but you get the idea). Individuals working together can do great things.

This winter there was a minor panic as I remember, about fuel shortages for power stations. These fanciful lighting schemes send out the wrong message! Also, do councils (often seen as remote and detached from the people they "serve") wish to isolate themselves more by passing these plans?

The environmental case is strong. Most councils presumably want to be seens as ethical and environmentally aware? All the main Westminster (as well as the devolved assemblies) parties are on the environment bandwagon.

This government is worried that there are not enough science teachers and those studying at university are taking "softer" subjects rather than hard science/maths. A child's first look through a telescope could inspire a lifelong interest (assuming there is any sky worth looking at by then).

How about the local press? Your MPs and councillors? USE these people! They are there to be used. You will always remember who the unhelpful ones were come election day! ;)
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear al
I thought it worth making a few more comments about the Stockport Sky Beam proposal, particular in view of Bunny's chat about "campaigning".
Well, of course the good news is that Stockport Council refused planning permission for the horrible light. However, it is thought that the Sky Beam "developer" will appeal.
However, I do not think the astronomical fraternity should not be too proud of their achievements in this case. I understand that there were only 19 letters sent making objections and 4 astronomers attended the crucial planning meeting.
We should all give a hearty thanks to the for stalwarts who did go to the meeting Geoff Walton and Kevin Thurstan of Altrincham Astronomical Society, and Robert Fletcher and Colin Harrison of Manchester AS.
I understand only one astronomer was allowed to speak at the meeting and that was RobertRobert actually spok for a maximum of three minutes.
I think we should also particularly thank Kevin who I understand was quite seriously ill and attended in a wheel chair.
There are six astronomical societies in the Manchester\ Stockport Manchester area and I do personally not think there being only 19 letters of objection is very impressive.
Best wishes from Cliff
nightcal
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Post by nightcal »

I think people here may have misunderstood planning and nuisance law.
On the planning side, anyone can object to a planning application, not just neighbours, and planning committees are duty bound to consider your objection. It as strongly adviseable to look up planning legistation and speak to your local planning department to find out what grounds you can use for objection.
On the subject of nuisance; Environmental Health Departments are duty bound to consider all complaints of nuisance from anyone, not just neighbours. They are perfectly within their powers to declare something a statuatory nuisance if just one person complains. I would suggest you look up the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 to find out about the definition of statutory nuisance (1990 Act) and light pollution (1995 Act).
Persistence, publicity and a good understanding of the law are the key factors in any campaign like this.

Best of Luck
Michael Morris
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Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Nightcal et al
I agree that is best to be aux fais with planning legislation if we possibly can. However, I think it better that astronomers make their feelings known about light pollution rather than getting too hide-bound (I hope that is the right word) by minute details. I would suggest it better to mention some concerns that might have no "genuine" legal significance than not to object at all. The more people that object then the more notice planning committees are likely to take. As things are amateur astronomers seem scared to express any opinions about light pollution. Although in many cases I suspect they just cannot be bothered and far too many supposed "amateur astronomers" or at least some members of astronomical organisations do not actually qualify as real amateur astronomers and are not really bothered about light pollution.
I myself have attended several local planning committee meetings and developers make some absolutely ludicrous statements and by and larege get away with it.
I am not suggesting that astronomers should make stupid ill consuidered objections with regards to opposing any planning applications where light pollution is an issue. However, in my opinion the councillors and council officials are generally pretty well totally ignorant of the issues so using ordinary logic is not always going to be successful.
Best wishes from Cliff
nightcal
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Post by nightcal »

Cliff
The point I was trying to make is that planning committees are only allowed to consider planning applications on strict criteria. If you are going to sucessfully object to an application, you need to address your objection in terms of those criteria.
The same things happens with statutory nuisance. If you know the criteria, you will know how to object in a way that your local environmental health department is allowed to consider.

Michael Morris
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Nightcal
Technically you may wel be quite correct in what you say.
However, it seems to me that so called amateur astronomers need every encouragement to object to light pollution. Many are already only too keen not to bother and adding complicated constraints is only likely to make them to continue not to bother.
Last year there were golden a opportunities for amateurs to get clued up about legislation related to light pollution at launch meetings organised throughout the country by the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committeebut, unfortunately the number of amateur astronomers who showed much interest in the meetings was abysmal.
The light pollution legislation meeting at Manchester last year attracted barely 30 astronomers from the whole North West of England. It is quite common for as many as that attend Manchester Astronomical Society's ordinary weekly meetings.
If no one objects just because they are scared they might not get all the details related to their objections absolutely correct then as far as I am concerned fighting light pollution is a lost cause.
I am definitely for sticking entirely to the truth but in my opinion most developers are quite happy to tell porkies.
If objectors try to stick to playing strictly to developers rules, then the objectors will get walked all over. Furthermore it is just conceivable that one or other apparently dubious objection might be something that no one else as ever thought of , and might prove to be quite important.
Best wishes from Cliff
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