Bid for West Penwith to become an International Dark Sky Park is in!

Our bid for West Penwith to become an International Dark Sky Park is in! So, we now have to wait patiently for the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) to review our evidence and decide whether to award us the status. If we are successful, we will be the 2nd Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) to achieve the Designation, in Cornwall; Bodmin Moor achieved it back in 2017.

Anyone who knows the West Penwith Section of the AONB will know how spectacular the night skies are, but a team have been working on gathering the evidence to prove they meet the criteria for the International designation that will also provide future protection. The Dossier of 146 pages has just been submitted to the IDA, based in Arizona, to see if all the criteria are met and the designation will be granted.

The journey was started in 2016 by 2 Parish Councillors, Kevin Hughes and Jon Brookes but progress was slow on their own, even though their Parish Councils were supportive. In 2017, after Bodmin Moor achieved the International Dark Sky Designation, Councillor Sue James, then Cabinet Member for the Environment but also a local Cornwall Councillor, was asked to form a Steering Group to progress the application. That Steering Group, with local councillors, businesses, photographers and others, supported technically by some Cornwall Council Officers, have just progressed matters to the submission stage and now anxiously await the verdict.

Councillor Sue James, Steering Group chair said “As well as gathering and submitting evidence like light meter readings, the specification of all our street lights and information on how we can control light pollution into the future, we have had to hold engagement and education events.” She went on to explain “Things were going well and then the Pandemic struck and we struggled to continue events, a challenge faced by many other groups. Undeterred, I came up with the idea of a photography competition and was delighted when Penwith Landscape Partnership agreed to run it. That gained us some wonderful shots to show our amazing night sky.”

Dark Skies Photography Competition, winning entry: Levant Mine by Duncan Scobie. Competition run by Penwith Landscape Partnership.

Those wanting to see all the winning entries for themselves, which show clearly why the Steering Group feel the skies above the West Penwith AONB are so special, can view them on the Penwith Landscape Partnership’s website: Outstanding Penwith Photo Competition.

The verdict should come back from the IDA in a month or two. They will either award the designation that will be recognised as a planning constraint for the area or will provide detailed feedback on what more needs to be done to achieve the ultimate goal to become West Penwith Dark Sky Park.

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