A PARISH council in the Forest is turning off some of its street lights at night for a trial period for the benefit of wildlife and people.

The Climate & Biodiversity Committee at West Dean Parish Council, which covers a stretch of the Forest from Berry Hill to Viney Hill, is undertaking an initiative called ‘Dark Skies’ over the coming months.

The project will see Gloucestershire County Council’s street lighting team switch off lights in two areas of the parish - in lower Yorkley and parts of the Highbury Estate in Bream - between the hours of 11pm and 5am.

It comes after 90 per cent of residents in the areas who responded to a survey said they were in favour of switching off the lights.

The council says the aim of the trial is to reduce the effects of light pollution on wildlife, which “interrupts their natural rhythms including migration, reproduction and feeding patterns.”

A spokesperson explained: “Often under-rated and less visible moths work tirelessly in the night providing an invaluable service pollinating flowers and plants.”

Another project aim is to reduce the parish’s carbon footprint, with street lighting responsible for 5 per cent of global carbon emissions, the council says, equating to more than a billion tons of CO2 per year.

It says the objectives support new local government guidelines for biodiversity enhancements, which state that: “Nature is important, but it is also essential for the processes that support all life on Earth, including humans. The natural environment provides benefits to us all through ecosystem services.”

The council says: “Preserving darkness is important for our sleep, our biology, and the health of our own ecosystem.

“Light is key to keeping our internal clock attuned to the environment.

“Outdoor lighting with cooler white light with shorter wave lengths can affect these natural sleep patterns.

“This artificial light effect our health, disruption to circadian cycle can cause sleep disorders that have been linked to health issues such as obesity, stress, cardiovascular disease, and a decrease in cognitive and motor skills.

“Exposure to artificial lighting at night suppresses melatonin production, the primary sleep hormone that helps to increase tiredness and regulates sleep cycles.”

During the trial, the council will conduct a further survey of residents within the trial area to understand peoples’ thoughts, opinions and the outcomes of the areas being without street lights for a few months.

The results of this second survey will then form the basis for a report to council about the extension and promotion of the Dark Skies initiative across West Dean parish.