A CHARITY is pressing ahead with its campaign to have Cumbria join an elite 16-strong international group whose dark skies are recognised as being of ‘exceptional or distinguished quality’.

Friends of the Lake District (FoLD) is aiming to secure this ‘dark skies reserve’ status for the county by 2022.

Jack Ellerby, FoLD dark skies reserve officer, said the region’s ‘darker places’ were ‘being gradually eroded piecemeal by the fashion of putting up more and more outdoor lighting.’

If it were to achieve dark skies reserve status, Cumbria would join a select list of just 16 other areas which includes Westhavelland Nature Park in Germany, NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia, and the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

The status would recognise the county as having ‘an exceptional or distinguished quality’ of starry nights which had been achieved through the ‘partnership of multiple land managers who have recognised the value of the natural nighttime environment through regulations and long-term planning.’

“Satellite images show how important the north of England and Cumbria is to the nation as a dark skies resource,” said Mr Ellerby, of FoLD.

“People recognise the issue of light pollution, whether they are an amateur astronomer or photographer, love wildlife, run a rural tourism business, or want to help the climate by switching unwanted lights off.

“Through our Dark Skies Cumbria project we will work with people, communities, businesses and supporting organisations to tackle both existing light pollution and try to prevent new lighting adding further to the problem.

“Please do get in contact if you know a particular lighting pollution hot-spot.”

A FoLD spokesman said ‘a positive’ had been the county council’s street lighting programme which had seen the replacement of ‘over 41,000 of the older orange sodium lights with LED lights since 2012.’

The spokesman said the new lamps focused downwards where the electricity was needed and so avoided wasting light in other directions, thus reducing light pollution.