AN APPEAL has been made for businesses to support Hexham achieving Dark Skies Town status.

The Town Council hopes environmentally-friendly, energy-saving LEDs will replace Hexham Abbey's old lighting units, saving both money and benefitting the environment.

Hexham Courant: Hexham Abbey in LED lightingHexham Abbey in LED lighting (Image: Hexham Town Council)

Dr. Suzanne Fairless-Aitken, town and county councillor for Hexham East, said: "The Abbey is the jewel in the Hexham crown and the high-energy halogen lights need replacing after 15 years, so this is the perfect time to tie-in our Town Council – Dark Skies (IDA) friendly planning guidelines and apply it to the new LEDs to replace the old units.

The International Dark Skies Association (IDA) aims to protect Dark Skies Parks from light pollution.

Hexham Courant: Hexham Abbey in energy saving LED lightingHexham Abbey in energy saving LED lighting (Image: Hexham Town Council)

"The LEDs could be turned up or down for different town events, while saving us energy costs – more important now than ever. We'd love Hexham to go for Dark Skies Town status and this is another step towards it. We've been giving certificates for attractive shop fronts – this includes the lighting being Dark Skies compliant. It will be both sustainable and practical.

"I'd really like us to go full disco for events to showcase our town, as various Lumiere shows around the country have done."

Cllr John Ord, chair of the Hexham Town Council planning committee (HTC), said: "We're still at the quotation and design stage, so we're getting companies in to show us what can be done to the Abbey. The hope is that we would have something in place during this four-year tenure for the council. It's an exciting and forward-thinking project, which will protect wildlife and save on our energy bills.

"This is not to say we go back in time to total darkness, it is about having the right type of lighting – downward, warm-white, less than 3,000 Kelvin and factoring it into local planning for updating old lighting and future developments.

"We have been lucky to work alongside Duncan Wise of the IDA. He and Will Cheung, astronomer and founder of Twice Brewed Stargazing, were invited to our HTC meeting last December about potentially making Hexham the UK's first Dark Skies Town. We're only six kilometres from the border of the Dark Skies National Park and as one of the gateway towns into Hadrian's Wall, I feel we have a duty to protect it from further man-made pollution. Other towns in the race for a bible-black night are Kendal and Penrith in Cumbria – so we need to get a move on."

"It would be ideal to have dimmable and timed-out lighting on bigger sites around town, but this can only be achieved if the bigger players are on board. The Town Council plans to advise and reward businesses for more compliant lighting and are looking into the costs of converting the Abbey lighting to more cost-effective LEDs," Cllr Ord said.

Cllr Fairless-Aitken said: "New developments are going up all the time and this is great for Hexham, but not so great for our nocturnal wildlife and us if light pollution is not better controlled. Blue-white, brighter lights are damaging for nocturnal hunters and breeders as it distracts them and can cause deadly harm. It affects our natural biorhythms and healthy human sleep patterns, which is why a warm-white, downward glow is so much better for us and the natural world. This is easy to substitute at the planning stage of all developments, and this needs to start happening more across all our local councils. I really feel this is important for Hexham, and something we can all get behind."

Cllr Fairless-Aitken added: "If any businesses in Hexham would like to sponsor the lighting, and potentially pick the colours for a day or two, get in touch with the projects officer at HTC, Clare Mwande at"

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