Developing

Bid To Create England's First Dark Sky Park

Parts of Northumberland may be turned into Europe's largest dark sky park in an effort to attract more stargazers to the wild border county.

Increasing light pollution means fewer Britons than ever are able to enjoy the sight of countless stars, according to managers at Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority.

They want to ringfence 400 square miles of countryside from poor lighting so that spectacular night views can be seen.

If local residents agree, the area will be given the designation from the International Dark Skies Association , based in Tucson, Arizona, to make it the third-biggest of only 12 such reserves worldwide.

A spokesman said: "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."

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."

Some 30,000 tourists have already visited Kielder's £450,000 observatory since it opened in 2008 and star camps also attract hundreds of observers every year, she said.

"It's crucial to understand that dark sky status does not mean turning lights off," she added. "Rather it is about working with people ... to create better and less wasteful lighting and promoting the night sky as an asset for the region."

Anne Hutchinson, chair of Wark Parish Council in Northumberland , said: "People don't want to see light pollution, whether it is from poor street lights or inappropriate external lights.

"It's not in keeping with the character of the area. My son lives in London and every time he returns on a clear night he stands at the entrance to our farm to marvel at the stars."