It's a blackout for stargazers' as garage has ruined their night skies

It's a blackout for stargazers' as garage has ruined their night skies

January 23, 2023

It’s a blackout for stargazers’ as they claim light-polluting garage has ruined their famous night skies

  • Critics say ‘ghastly bright’ service station has ruined a village’s famous skies 
  • The fuel giant has been accused of ‘blatant light pollution’

Angry stargazers have criticised Shell, saying a ‘ghastly bright’ service station has ruined a village’s famous night skies.

The fuel giant has been accused of ‘blatant light pollution’ after the company built a petrol station in the quiet village of Thropton, Northumberland.

The station, which includes a Spar and a butcher’s, opened in the village – which has just 458 residents – in November.

Thropton sits on the edge of the Northumberland National Park, which was named one of the world’s best places to gaze at the stars. 

Angry stargazers have criticised Shell, saying a ‘ghastly bright’ service station has ruined a village’s famous night skies

The station, which includes a Spar and a butcher’s, opened in the village – which has just 458 residents – in November

Several residents are calling for the service station to either shut at night or close completely over fears the light could drive tourists away.

One said: ‘There is blatant light pollution seeping into the night sky.’

A Shell spokesman said: ‘We are… exploring suitable solutions to dim the lighting to address this concern.’

The 572 square miles of the county were awarded Gold Tier status for their pristine dark skies, rating it alongside Death Valley in America.

Between November to February thousands of dark-sky fans flock to the area to enjoy the Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis, which is visible over the county.

The ‘lights row’ has erupted on social media to such an extent a local Facebook group even conducted a poll of residents to shed light on the issue.

According to the ‘Rothbury & Coquetdale’ Facebook group, 98 per cent of people said the lighting was not a problem.

Meanwhile two per cent of people agreed that the lighting was ‘ghastly’ and a ‘blight on our landscape’.

Local councillor Steven Bridgett, who represents Thropton, said: ‘A complaint has been made to Northumberland County Council by a parish council that neighbours Thropton regarding the lighting.

‘What I will say is that the lighting scheme that is currently in place is very different from what was originally proposed and a lot more conservative (than was previously proposed).’

The row comes after scientists say light pollution has led to eroding star visibility around the world over the past decade.

Dr Christopher Kyba, of the the German Research Centre for Geosciences, said: ‘To put this in perspective, a child born in an area where 250 stars were visible would likely see fewer than 100 in the same location 18 years later.’

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