Light pollution at lorry park: lights too bright

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Residents at the village of Mersham are now complaining about the light pollution at the new lorry park. The all-night glare from the operations keeps them awake at night. The managers of the site claim to be making technical adjustments, such as turning the beams downwards.

Excessive artificial lighting at lorry park is pollution 

Light pollution is a subject of environmental research in many parts of the world, where light which is too bright from urbanisation and airfields is disrupting nature. Around Florida coasts, artificial light confuses baby turtles trying to navigate towards an ocean horizon.

Lights pointing upwards, such as for airfields, confuse migratory birds which navigate by the moon and bright stars. In America, migrating monarch butterflies are similarly affected. Male tree frogs under bright lights cease their mating calls and eventually die out in that area.

Impact of light pollution on trees

Trees are hit in three ways: their dormant periods (in winter short days), their shoot growth in spring, and their flowering. It is the 24 hours of artificial light that is the most damaging. It tricks the trees out of their full dormancy period, and thus weakens young trees. It makes them leaf sooner, possibly when it is still too cold or gusty to sustain a deciduous tree in full leaf. And if they then come into bloom too early it may be still too cold for the insects that pollinate them.

This makes one wonder what the combination of intense artificial lighting with such a cold May has done to the vegetation around the lorry park at Sevington and Mersham.

Light pollution and insects

Insects that are particularly affected by light pollution are night moths. As their normal camouflage will not work, some species may die out in an environment of artificial light. Others, indeed, may in time evolve with different camouflage to suit the brighter conditions. Insects of all types are in drastic decline across Southern England as any motorist who used to clean many off their windscreens can attest.

Human health suffers from light pollution at lorry park

The International Dark-Sky Association looks into the effect of exposure to artificial light in humans. They write:

“Humans evolved to the rhythms of the natural light-dark cycle of day and night. The spread of artificial lighting means most of us no longer experience truly dark nights.

“Research suggests that artificial light at night like the light pollution at the lorry park can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.”

Astronomers and light pollution

Amateur astronomers are also hindered as excessive light makes the Milky Way invisible in urban areas. It is impossible to view many interesting events such as moon eclipses, comets and shooting stars from areas with too much street lighting.

Interactive map of light pollution at night in Kent

Various organisations have campaigned against night blight, notably the campaign to protect rural England (CPRE). In 2015 they reproduced interactive maps of images taken at night by satellite. 

This revealed that the worst light pollution in Kent came from Thanet Earth, the industry that produces salad crops under glass, and emits artificial light brighter than central London through the whole night. The district in Kent that came out best for dark skies was Ashford, which was an early adopter of a policy against night blight: Policy ENV4 in the local plan 2030.

A search of the CPRE interactive map dated 2016 does not, of course, show up the current light pollution at the new lorry park to the south of Ashford in postcodes TN25 N… The planning permission to use this area for post-Brexit border control was by-passed and construction works were contracted in secrecy. So now it is not surprising that local residents are complaining and have cause to point to Policy ENV4.