Dark Skies – designing lighting schemes for sensitive areas

The lighting design team at Brilliant was really pleased to welcome Mike Hawtin from the North York Moors National Park to talk about Dark Skies. The North York Moors National Park was designated an International Dark Skies Reserve in December 2020. We invited Mike in to talk to the lighting designers about Dark Skies and what the planning authority was looking for.

Mike Hawtin, Dark Skies Officer at the North York Moors National Park, briefing the lighting design team at Brilliant
Mike Hawtin, Dark Skies Officer at the North York Moors National Park, briefing the lighting design team at Brilliant

The North York Moors is one of the best places in the country to see stars, because of the low light pollution levels and clear horizons. As lighting designers who work in the North York Moors National Park as well as many other sensitive areas and Dark Skies Reserves, it was great to share real life projects and discuss the different challenges and options to deliver eco-sensitive external lighting.

We’re increasingly involved in designing lighting schemes in more sensitive environments. It’s not meant our taking a totally different approach but it has required a change of emphasis. We’ve always adopted an approach of “only light what you want, when you want to light it”. That chimes with the Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) view in its “Guidance Notes for the Reduction of Obtrusive Light”

“Think before you light – The right amount of light, where wanted, when wanted.”

That’s sound advice in any external lighting project; a little light can go a long way and choosing what and when you’re lighting something is important. Particularly sensitive areas might make you think slightly differently. Instead of asking yourself what you want to light, you might ask yourself what you need to light. The results might be similar but it’s a good discipline and it helps you question whether a piece of aesthetic lighting is really necessary and if so, how you can do it with the least possible light pollution.

The session with Mike was a useful and thought-provoking one. If you’d like help with lighting design for a sensitive location or any external scheme then get in touch here.


Dark Skies on the North Yorks Moors National Park website. Includes a useful section on Dark Skies Friendly Lighting

Lighting Control – Lighting what you need to light, when you need to light it and with the right amount of light is a lot easier with a lighting control system.

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