Please be assured that I recognise that particular new research emerging which shows the harm done to wildlife from excessive light pollution, and I would like this issue to be taken much more seriously, especially in areas where we are working to improve biodiversity.
I would like to assure you that the Government recognises the impact light pollution may have on people’s health and wellbeing, as well as the environment. Ministers have put measures in place to ensure that light pollution is managed effectively. These include controls in the planning system, the statutory nuisance regime, and improvements in street lighting.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has worked with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ensure that the National Planning Policy Framework is clear that planning decisions should limit the impact of light pollution on local amenity, dark landscapes and nature conservation. The statutory nuisance regime requires that local authorities take reasonably practicable steps to investigate complaints of artificial light emitted from premises which could be damaging to human health or a nuisance.
The Government’s legally binding target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 underlines the Government’s ambition to protect wildlife across all areas of the UK. Defra has provided funding for national and international assessments of drivers of change on insects and wider biodiversity such as the global IPBES Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production, which notes that the effects of artificial light in general on nocturnal insects may be growing.
While the Government has not made any specific assessment of the impacts of light pollution on insect (or wider wildlife) population trends, I am assured that Ministers will continue to work with partners including leading scientists to review the latest studies and ensure that the Government continues to address key threats to biodiversity.
The Government’s consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework focuses on delivering the right homes in the right places and giving local people a greater say on where to place new development. I understand that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities intends to undertake a fuller review of the framework later in 2023, and I look forward to considering the proposals in due course.
I am aware that the management of street lighting in England and Wales is the responsibility of local highway authorities, which have a duty under the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the public highways in their charge, including street lighting. However, I understand that central Government has no powers to override local decisions in these matters or intervene in these types of local issues.
The Department for Transport recognises that light pollution (and excessive use of lighting) can pose some social, economic and environmental problems. Local authorities are therefore encouraged to consider best practice when making decisions about lighting on their networks.