Dales communities back dark sky reserve plans

The dark skies above Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales.

Local communities in the Yorkshire Dales National Park have given strong backing to an application to make the national park an International Dark Sky Reserve.

A total of 71 parish councils and parish meetings have endorsed the national park Authority’s bid, which was sent to the International Dark Sky Association late last month.

These parishes represent 84 per cent of the population of the national park and 81 per cent of its area.

Member champion for promoting understanding at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Kevin Frea, said: “The National Park Authority has never before seen such a high level of community support across the National Park for a project.

“Local people know how blessed they are to have a night sky largely free from light pollution.

“It is also clear that people see the business opportunities that a dark sky creates, particularly during the autumn and winter seasons.

“Increasing numbers of people are seeking out the Dales for star gazing as an accompaniment to superb food, drink and hospitality.

“I would like to thank sincerely all the local communities and businesses that have taken the time to offer their support and comments, together with the district and county councils in the national park.”

In a letter to the US-based International Dark Sky Association, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Chief Executive David Butterworth said: “This application is the culmination of five years of engagement activity; it clearly demonstrates the high level of public support for the Dark Sky Reserve bid and also the extremely high quality of our night skies, with more than 100 locations having the standard of darkness required.

“We hope that the International Dark Sky Association will look on our application favourably and we look forward to joining the family of International Dark Sky Reserves.”

It is proposed that the International Dark Sky Reserve would be the whole National Park area, with the darkest ‘core’ comprising a large arc of land including the upper parts of Wensleydale (excluding Hawes), Swaledale, Mallerstang, Garsdale, Littondale and Wharfedale.

In total, the core area would amount to 658 km², 30 per cent of the area of the national park.

Achieving Dark Sky Reserve status by 2021 is one of the objectives set out in the Yorkshire Dales National Park Management Plan.