Ryedale District Council

Light pollution

Information and guidance on lighting and what to do to avoid creating light pollution.


Artificial light is essential and we all use it for many different things including:

  • to light streets and roads at night;
  • as a security measure to protect homes and businesses; and
  • to increase the hours we can play sports outdoors.

On this page;

What is light pollution?

Light pollution can be described as artificial light allowed to illuminate, or pollute areas not intended to be lit. It consists of several elements:

  • light trespass – light spilling beyond the boundary of the property on which a light is located, sometimes shining through windows and curtains;
  • glare – the uncomfortable brightness of a light source when viewed against a darker background; and
  • sky glow – the pink or orange glow we see for miles around towns and cities caused by a scattering of artificial light by airborne dust and water droplets.

To see how much light pollution there is in your area visit the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England website and view the light pollution maps.

Lighting design problems

A light fitting will deliver light where it is needed, but will potentially also give four areas of unwanted and wasted, light:

  • spill light - falls outside the area where it is needed, it can be avoided by pointing the light in the right direction;
  • upward light - this is wasted light shining above a light fitting, it is entirely avoidable by the correct use of the correct light fitting. Direct the light downwards wherever possible (this can also reduce glare);
  • upward reflected light - this is unavoidable and dependant on the reflectances of the surfaces below the light fitting, (dry tarmac will commonly reflect 7%, grass about 20-25%). This is another source of "sky glow". Remedies are to use only as much light on the surface as is really needed and to try to select a surface which minimises reflectance; and
  • direct glare - from seeing the bright filament of an unshielded light, troublesome and dangerous unshielded bright lighting. Direct glare is more wasted light and can be a major problem.

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What can you do to help reduce light pollution and what can you do if you experience light pollution?

  • do not fit unnecessary lights;
  • do not use excessively bright lights, a 150 watt tungsten halogen lamp is quite adequate, 300 or 500 watt bulbs are too powerful for domestic security lighting;
  • do not leave lights on when they are not needed;
  • consider controlling lights with passive infra-red detectors, ensuring that they are correctly aligned and installed.
  • For a porch light that is going to be left on all night, a nine watt compact fluorescent lamp is normally adequate.

Action against light pollution

If you are experiencing light pollution from your neighbours try approaching the owner of the offending light, politely requesting:

  • re-angling or partial shading of the light;
  • fitting of a passive infra red sensor;
  • using a lower power bulb; and
  • it might help if you can show the neighbour the effect of the light from "your side of the fence".

Note: lights do not always deter criminals (the main insurers do not offer any reductions in premiums for exterior lighting).

If the owner of the lighting is not willing to resolve the issue or compromise to a level agreed by you both we can investigate the situation.You will be required to keep information on:

  • duration;
  • times of day the light is an issue;
  • frequency; and
  • the level of illumination.

This information along with the officer's evidence, will be used to assess if the light is in fact a nuisance and if so request action from the owner.

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Advice on installing domestic security lighting

lightPlease view the advice given by the Institution of Lighting Engineers ( ILE ) on installing Domestic Security Lighting. Any electrical firm should follow the ILE guidance when installing lighting and especially security lighting.

For new developments, when Environmental Protection are consulted by the Planning Department, lighting is assessed against the ILE guidance for the Reduction of Light Pollution.

The diagram shows how light from a badly adjusted security lamp can invade the privacy of another property. The dotted lines indicated the light which is causing the nuisance. If adjusted correctly the light should only spread across the area shown by the solid line.

Light and statutory nuisance

Part 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires us to take reasonable steps to investigate and, if appropriate, to take formal action in the event of justified complaints of statutory nuisance.

A statutory nuisance can include emissions of light from e.g. security lights. The emissions must arise from premises and must materially affect the use and enjoyment of other premises. If satisfied that a complaint is justified an abatement notice will be served on the person responsible. Failure to comply with an abatement notice is an offence and legal proceedings may result.

For further information or advice email Health and Environment or telephone 01653 600666.


Attachments (downloads)
FileNo of pagesFile sizeCreated
Download this file (Environmental_Health_Service_Enforcement_Policy_Statement_Sept 2104.pdf)Enforcement policy statement Sept 20146112 kB09-2014
Download this file (Environmental _Protection_Charter_april07.pdf)Environmental Health - environmental protection charter322 kB11-2013

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