We give great thought to the adjustment of lighting in our homes.

None of us want to look at a bright, unshaded bulb.

The same is true out of doors.


West Lulworth is a small settlement at the heart of which is a Conservation Area. It is surrounded by the sea and open countryside, much of which has either SSSI, AONB or World Heritage status.

The village has virtually no street lighting and residents have consistently opposed the idea of street lighting over the past 40 to 45 years.

The rural darkness and the night sky it affords, contribute to the tranquillity of the village’s nocturnal character.




Appreciation of the night sky is one of the reasons that some people are attracted to West Lulworth, to live and to visit.

Our link to The Sky this Month is one of the most visited areas of the parish website, attracting some thousand views per year.

Not surprisingly therefore, outside lighting has a significantly greater impact in West Lulworth, than would be the case in an urban setting.

“Whether light ‘intensity’ is seen as glare or not depends on the surrounding ‘luminance’, as can be noted when comparing a road lighting luminaire or floodlight lit during the day and again at night.” 2

People have various requirements of outside lighting, but incorrectly specified or installed, outside lighting may easily create light pollution or a nuisance.

This was recognised in the West Lulworth Parish Plan 1 which called for a Dark Skies Policy.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 2 states in its overview,

“This guidance is aimed at local authorities, particularly Environmental Health Practitioners who enforce nuisance legislation. It may also be useful to other agencies.”

On page 27 it further states that,

“ ….. Local authorities have a duty to take reasonable steps, where practicable, to investigate any complaints of artificial light nuisance ……”

Rather than encourage a complaints driven procedure, the intention of the West Lulworth Dark Skies Policy is to avoid dispute by describing potential problems arising from the use of outside lighting and making recommendations as to how those problems may be avoided.

Obtrusive Light.

Sky glow, the brightening of the night sky,


Glare the uncomfortable brightness of a light source when viewed against a darker background.


Light Intrusion (“Trespass”), the spilling of light beyond the boundary of the property or area being lit.

These are all forms of obtrusive light. They cause nuisance to others and possibly harm. They may also be a nuisance in law.

How can you minimise the problem?

Cheer up. In the majority of cases you can solve the problem without detriment to the lighting task by just directing the light downward.

By putting the light where you want it, you will probably be able to reduce the power of the bulb and save yourself money as well.


Overlighting is a major cause of obtrusive light.

Unfortunately, many outside light fittings are very poorly designed, with less than half the light output going in a useful direction. For that reason they often contain unnecessarily bright bulbs to achieve a result.

Relatively high-powered lights are rarely necessary in domestic situations and have a nuisance effect over considerable distances.

Rapid advances in modern lighting technology have also caused considerable confusion. It is easy to underestimate the light output of a modern bulb.

In recognition of this, a table comparing the performance of modern bulbs with their traditional equivalents is attached to the end of the document.



If security lighting gives people a greater sense of safety, they should be entitled to use it, but not in a way that causes nuisance to others.

Excessive levels of illumination provide dark shadows for people, including those with criminal intent, to hide in or behind. Lighting that is shielded or angled down can actually improve rather than compromise security.

Somewhat surprisingly, police consistently report that there appears to be no apparent link between illumination and crime.

A separate switching detector can be used on some models to sense the movement of intruders on the property. Lamps and detectors should be aimed to detect and light people on the property, not people or animals walking down the street. If lights detect everything that moves, they will switch on and off repeatedly and could be a source of statutory nuisance.


Roadside lighting

For the reasons stated above, light fittings with motion detectors should not be used adjacent to the highway.

Street lighting is a complex field and is not the responsibility of householders.

Excessive lights are potentially dangerous adjacent to the highway where the contrasting glare and dark shadows they cause can adversely affect road users or other passers-by. The glare of a light can easily conceal a pedestrian from a motorist.

Outside lights are unsuitable for roadside use if they cannot be directed downwards. Where that is the case, a bulb with a low light output may help mitigate the nuisance.


Commercial Properties.

The foregoing is as true for commercial premises as it is for domestic.

Businesses are not exempt from responsibility for the consequences of their lighting schemes. Many businesses use decorative floodlighting to draw attention to their premises. Where possible carefully installed downlighting should be used, rather than uplighting, which can be both glaring and wasteful of light into the sky.

This is also the case when lighting advertising signs. Light should be directed downwards wherever possible.

Signs with glossy surfaces should be avoided as the reflection from the surface will increase light spillage and glare.

If there is no alternative to up-lighting, as with much decorative lighting of buildings, then the use of shields, baffles and louvres will help reduce spill light around and over the structure to a minimum.

West Lulworth is, as previously stated, dark at night. There is little other light in the vicinity, so less light is required to draw attention than would be the case in an urban setting.

Businesses and the local authorities will undoubtedly consider any lighting schemes with regard to potential action under the statutory nuisance regime. Business premises will have the defence of “best practicable means”, but would need to substantiate that claim



The Policy:

In meeting our needs for external lighting, we should consider others and avoid causing a nuisance to them.

We are all entitled to provide outside illumination to our properties.

That illumination should not be directed outside of our properties, into the properties of others, along the highway or into the night sky.

Outside lighting should be sufficient for its intended task and not excessive.

Outside lighting should be directed downwards.

Automatic security lighting should not be triggered by, or directed towards events outside our property.

If we require outside lighting, it should be chosen and installed to meet these requirements.

If our existing lighting cannot meet these requirements, we should reconsider its use.

In meeting our needs for external lighting, we should consider others and avoid causing a nuisance to them.


  1. West Lulworth Parish Plan http://www.dorsetforyou.com/media.jsp?mediaid=126722&filetype=pdf
  1. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 (P 27- 34) http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/local/legislation/cnea/documents/statnuisance.pdf


Extensive reference has been made to the following sources:

Guidance notes for the Reduction of Obtrusive Light                                   (Institution of Lighting Engineers (2005) https://www.theilp.org.uk/documents/obtrusive-light/

The British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies   http://www.britastro.org/dark-skies/index.html?4O

Incorporating Lighting Clauses in your Local Plan                           (Extracts from Local Plans: Examples of Good Practice) http://www.britastro.org/dark-skies/localplan.htm?5O


Light bulb brightness   -   a rough guide

Bulb brightness used to be expressed in watts, (the amount of energy they used).

Modern bulbs use fewer watts to do the same job, so their brightness is now expressed in lumens, (the light they give out).

It is easy to underestimate the light output of a modern bulb.

The table below compares the watts used by modern bulbs, to that used by their old light bulb eqivalents.


light bulb brightness chart


For more detailed information, call thelightbulb.co.uk on: 01869 362222.