Astronomers await city ruling on night lighting

January 31, 2008

A ten-year dispute over the University of Cambridge's plans to floodlight an athletics track is due to come to a head this week.

The planning department of the Cambridge City Council is set to give its verdict on a controversy that has pitted the university against academics in its Institute of Astronomy and a residents' group.

Protesters say the proposed lights would create light pollution that would prevent astronomical observation and harm wildlife.

Leading the protests from the IoA is Roger Griffin, emeritus professor of observational astronomy, who has told planners that the lights would create a "massive glow visible for miles around".

He also argued that less powerful training lights would meet most of the athletes' needs. "It is clear that the principal motives in wanting floodlighting are commercial and that it has ambitions to make a great deal of money by hiring out the pitches to all comers," he added.

However, an IoA letter to staff in December said that as it was adopting a "co-operative approach to negotiate a compromise solution, it would not be helpful if members of the IoA were to lodge objections on grounds related to astronomy".

But Professor Griffin said the compromise, in which floodlight use is restricted to the hours of 6.30 to 9.30pm, would still be detrimental to observation work.

The North Newham Residents' Association has also lodged complaints about the floodlighting plans.

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