A local astronomer is keen for Hexham to become England’s first Dark Sky Town.

Wil Cheung, who runs stargazing events at The Twice Brewed Inn, said the town was “perfectly placed” in between the Northumberland National Park and North Pennines AONB to become a Dark Sky Town.

The UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dark Skies was formed last year and exists to fight light pollution to protect our dark skies for future generations.

Their ‘Ten Dark Sky Policies for the Government’ policy plan includes creating a ‘Dark Sky Towns & Cities’ initiative, which would give local government the power to go further to reduce light pollution by creating a voluntary ‘Dark Sky Town/City’ classification.

Wil said: “We could make Hexham the first dark sky town in the whole of England, and it will be the largest dark sky town in the whole of the UK.

“Nowhere else in the country I think is a better candidate.

“I think it’s absolutely possible, I’m really up for it.”

Wil, a delegate for the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) which works to protect the night skies, said rather than switching off or reducing the town’s lights, the idea would be to ensure lights are pointed down to make them more dark sky friendly and make sure that new projects install ‘better types of lighting’.

Wil added astro-tourism could benefit the town, and lead to more jobs, with things like restaurants busier, if Hexham was to become a stargazing destination.

“There is more interest in astrology than ever before,” he said.

“If we can get Hexham to become a Dark Sky Town, we are protecting it from light pollution.”

Wil said the benefits of reduced light pollution include better sleep and it is better for wildlife.

He added that if this plan was approved, it would encourage potential new developments, such as a McDonald’s in the town, to get ‘better types’ of lights.

“People could be having their burgers and stargazing at the same time,” he said.

Wil posted the idea on a community Facebook page to see what Hexham’s residents thought before he begins the process to make it happen, and received many comments of support.

Coun. Derek Kennedy, county councillor for Hexham West, expressed his support.

And Duncan Wise, visitor development and marketing manager at Northumberland National Park, which is part of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, also pledged his support and offered his help and advice.

Wil explained that there are different ways of receiving the title of a Dark Sky Town or Communities as long as it fits the group or organisation’s criteria, including from the IDA.

Wil said he would speak to larger businesses and planners of new developments in Hexham, and then would decide what recognition they are going to go for.

He said that if there is some investment requirements, such as changes to lighting, the benefits will far outweigh them.

Wil, who is volunteering to do this and will not be paid, stressed that this would be a big project, and would take between 12 and 24 months to be completed.

“It will be worth it in the end.”