Dark Skies

A Dark Sky Discovery Site in Chichester Harbour?

Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is England's coastal gem. At 74km2, it is the smallest AONB in the South East region, yet is one of the most intensively used, offering a mixture of sea, coast and land. The Harbour is of international importance for its wintering bird populations. It also has a rich cultural heritage and boasts a proud history of boat building and sailing. The principal management body, Chichester Harbour Conservancy (founded in 1971), seamlessly integrates the management of the natural and cultural environments. Indeed, the very fabric of Chichester Harbour can be found in its sailing communities, which in early 1960s, helped to bring about the AONB designation in 1964.

Chichester Harbour Conservancy would like to find out where the best place in the Harbour is for star-gazing. Therefore throughout August 2015 we are inviting quotes from interested parties to undertake a Feasibility Study for us, which will provide background information to support the potential nomination of a Dark Sky Discovery Site in the AONB.

The night skies are vital to the AONB for a number of reasons:

Science. The dark skies are vital for astronomy and our understanding of the universe
Businesses. Astro-tourism is one of the fastest growing businesses in the UK, with benefits to local accommodation and catering providers.
The natural environment. Nocturnal animals, such as owls, bats, badgers, insects, arachnids, molluscs, mice, hedgehogs, foxes and even the domestic cat are dependent on dark skies for their way of life.
Development management. With a combined 14,000 new houses to be built in Chichester District and Havant Borough between now and 2029, light pollution levels are likely to increase, which will impact on recreational disturbance.
Designated for future generations. The Harbour already benefits from a raft of landscape and natural environment designations, yet there is little to protect our night skies at present.

There are a number of requirements that have to be satisfactorily met before Dark Sky Discovery status can be awarded. For example, the researcher will need to consider the:

1. Size of the site, which should be 100m2 (10m x 10m), and its overall accessibility.
2. Darkness rating, which needs to be verified by a local astronomical organisation.
3. Sightlines, typically the sight needs to be away from tall buildings, trees.
4. Public access requirement, since the site must be freely open to the public for most of the year.
5. Wheelchair access, so any barriers to participation is accounted for.
6. Safety of the site, with a full and comprehensive risk assessment.
7. Local support, whether from the land owner, the local authority, and local residents.

You can find out more about Dark Sky Discovery sites at:


Application Procedure

Interested parties are required to submit:
• A brief project plan for how you would go about undertaking the Feasibility Study;
• A work schedule, so we can see what you intend to do and when;
• A financial summary, so we can see how the resources will be used.
• A curriculum vitae for the person undertaking the project.
• An overall quotation for the work.

We welcome proposals from individuals, organisations, societies, and/or partnerships. Our aim is to put-together a robust case for support for a new Dark Sky Discovery Site.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 31st August 2015 at 5pm.

Please direct all enquiries, and your submission, to:

Richard Austin
AONB Manager
01243 510982


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Photo: Evelyn Simmons

Photo: Peter Arnold