A POWYS town’s bid to become the first ‘Dark Skies Community’ in the UK has gained support from renowned naturalist and broadcaster Iolo Williams.

Last year, Presteigne began trialling new street lights hoping to enhance the night sky by limiting light pollution.

The Presteigne Dark Skies Project, the brainchild of Presteigne and Norton Town Council, was launched with the aim of achieving dark sky status for the town – which would see it become the first in Wales to get the seal of approval from the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

The IDA designates towns, cities and villages as ‘international dark sky communities’ and becoming an International Dark Sky Community means an area has shown “exceptional dedication” to the preservation of the night sky in the region.

And the project has certainly been deemed a ray of light as far as Iolo is concerned; he has commended the town council on its efforts.

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In an email to the town council, Iolo said: “I am writing to add my support to the Presteigne Dark Skies campaign.

“As a mid-Walian, I am well aware of the benefits that having such a status brings to the community. It will attract dark skies tourists, providing a major boost to the town’s economy, much of it out of season when it is most needed.

“As the first Dark Skies Community in England and Wales, it would give Presteigne a unique selling point. It would also benefit local wildlife as traditional street lighting has been shown to be detrimental to several species, including many key pollinator moths.

“I understand that the town is already working alongside award-winning lighting designer Kerem Asfuroglu to make the town’s lighting dark sky friendly and that Powys County Council is replacing existing outdated street lights with new dark sky compliant lights.

“Presteigne is a beautiful border town that has, like so many others, suffered a prolonged recession in recent years. I strongly believe that obtaining dark sky status will be a positive leap forward and will benefit local people as well as the town and its wildlife.”

The National Wales:  Presteigne began trialling the street lights project last year Presteigne began trialling the street lights project last year

The Presteigne Dark Skies Project is being led by a number of interested members of the community in conjunction with the town council and local county councillor Beverley Baynham.

“There are many benefits of achieving dark sky status,” said Presteigne and Norton Town Council in a statement.

“It will make the town an even more prominent destination and help regenerate the town by attracting eco tourism and benefit associated businesses. Presteigne, as a border town, would become the ‘Gateway to the Dark Skies of Wales’.

“With the help of award-winning lighting designer and founder of Dark Source, Kerem Asfuroglu, the intention is to make the town’s lighting an engaging and inclusive experience. Powys County Council has been extremely supportive and is in the process of replacing the existing outdated street lighting with new dark skies compliant lights.

“The new lights use less energy, produce less light pollution and use a wavelength of light that minimises the effect on wildlife and human health. It will significantly reduce the effect of streetlights on animals such as insects and bats compared to conventional LED lighting.

“The intention is not to turn off lights but provide targeted warmer lighting while not reducing visibility.

“The Spaceguard Centre, a few miles away, will also benefit from the reduction in light pollution in its search for comets, asteroids and other near earth objects.

The National Wales:  The Presteigne project has recieved praise from Iolo Williams The Presteigne project has recieved praise from Iolo Williams

“Overall the project is expected to have a positive effect on the economy of the town and surrounding area, benefit wildlife and reduce light pollution. It will be an important step for climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, it is estimated that the new street lighting will reduce Presteigne’s carbon footprint by about 3.5 tonnes of CO2 per year.

“Our aim is to become a model that other towns in Wales will wish to copy.”

The application to IDA is due to be submitted sometime in the near future, once the work on the street lighting in Presteigne and Norton is complete. Ongoing work will look at lighting to enhance important buildings in the town and provide educational resources to the town’s school.

More information on the project can be seen here, or you can contact Presteigne and Norton Town Council clerk Tracey Price on presteigneandnortontowncouncil@outlook.com.

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