Dark Sky Status (Cornwall)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:42 pm on 29th November 2017.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 4:42 pm, 29th November 2017

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. If he is offering an opportunity to take some of those American tourists from Ireland to west Cornwall, I would be absolutely delighted.

We live in an unspoiled dark area, so achieving the status would not necessarily require significant changes to light pollution levels today. The many people who are working hard to achieve the dark skies reserve, including my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall and others in west Cornwall, are seeking to preserve and protect the current situation for future generations, but there are plans to build 19,000 new homes in Cornwall and carry out a number of road and other infrastructure projects. That is why it is so important that we secure dark skies status—it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In February, I supported the efforts to achieve dark skies status with a constituency-wide survey. Over 95% of those who responded supported the ambition of the dark skies initiative and the work that the working group is doing, as does the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Exeter University, which delivers education in parts of Cornwall, the National Trust, Penwith Landscape Partnership, the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the Duchy of Cornwall, Cornwall Council and the diocese of Truro. A couple of names have been mentioned. I would like to mention Kevin Hughes, a constituent of mine, who been a long-time avid campaigner to deliver dark skies designation in west Cornwall and Scilly. Together, we are united to keep Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly special.

When we secure dark skies reserve status, we will further improve our offer to tourists and our care for the environment and wildlife habitats, and we will lead the way in striking the balance and finding the harmony needed not by resisting house building but by ensuring that the built environment complements the largely unspoiled beauty of the county of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. That is what exercises the minds and energies of large numbers of Cornish residents.

When preparing for this debate, I was sent some fantastic images of the skies above Cornwall at night. It is regrettable that I cannot share them in the Chamber, but hon. Members can view them, along with the 9,805 people who have already done so, on the Dark Skies for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Facebook page.