NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Dark Sky Planning Guideline

The Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran is one of the most important observatories in the world. It is one of the few light observatories that can observe the whole southern hemisphere sky.

The observatory's work is crucial to understanding the universe and how to protect our planet’s fragile environment. The telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory need a dark night sky that is free from light pollution.

In 2016, the International Dark Sky Association declared the surrounding region of Siding Spring as Australia's first Dark Sky Park. We worked with the observatory to develop the Dark Sky Planning Guideline, which:

  • detail planning controls for development surrounding Siding Spring Observatory
  • advises how to minimise light pollution
  • explains good lighting design principles.

View the guideline

The Dark Sky planning controls have been updated

New planning controls came into effect when the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) Amendment (Miscellaneous) and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Dubbo) Regulation 2023 were notified on 24 February 2023.

The primary focus of these changes is to strengthen planning controls on land immediately surrounding the observatory. The changes include:

  • removing restrictions in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) for certain types of developments on land within 18km of the observatory, provided they do not require any form of lighting
  • updating references to Dubbo Regional Council within the Codes SEPP, the State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) 2021 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 to ensure that development controls relating to the observatory apply to land regulated by the Dubbo Regional Local Environmental Plan 2022
  • introducing new development standards to Part 4B of the Codes SEPP to limit complying development from being carried out on land within the local government areas of Coonamble, Gilgandra, Warrumbungle Shire or Dubbo Regional, if the development involves the installation of an outside light fitting.

These changes will be supported by impending updates to the guideline, including updated guidance on skylight lights and illuminated signs, plus model conditions of consent for development on land surrounding the observatory.

In our video Dark Sky Guidelines [2:16], chief astronomer Fred Watson explains how we are protecting Siding Spring Observatory.

Page last updated: 01/03/2023