Kielder is aiming to be left in the dark

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A BID is being created to designate an area of Northumberland countryside as Europe’s biggest dark sky park.

Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority are consulting on securing dark sky status for nearly 400 square miles of countryside.

If successful it would be the third largest area of its kind in the world.

The prestigious designation is awarded by the International Dark Skies Association (IDA), based in Tucson, USA.

There are just 12 such preserves worldwide, including the two largest in Big Bend National Park, Texas, and Mount Megantic in Quebec, Canada.

Project chiefs are in talks with residents, parish councils and businesses to explain the proposals and gauge feedback before any application is made.

If successful, Kielder Water & Forest Park would become England’s first dark sky park, while adjoining Northumberland National Park would be Europe’s largest dark sky reserve – both committed to reducing light pollution and engaging the public about our dark skies.

Elisabeth Rowark, director of the Kielder Water & Development Trust, said: “Northumberland is a magical place both by night and day. Dark sky status would allow us to protect, cherish and promote our natural nightscapes. But gaining public support is the key. We are already benefiting from dark sky tourism in the shape of the successful £450,000 Kielder Observatory, which has drawn 30,000 people since opening in 2008. Star camps also attract hundreds of observers every year.

“It’s crucial to understand that dark sky status does not mean turning lights off. Rather it is about working with people and Northumberland County Council to create better and less wasteful lighting and promoting the night sky as an asset for the region.”

To attain dark sky park and dark sky reserve status, it is necessary to demonstrate a commitment to minimising light pollution.

A lighting management plan is also required. This will ensure that new lighting is night sky-friendly.