A NSW Government website

Dark Sky Planning Guideline

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

The observatory's work is crucial in understanding the universe and how to protect our planet's fragile environment. For the telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory to work, the night sky must be dark and 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. To support this, the Department of Planning and Environment worked with the Observatory to develop the Dark Sky Planning Guideline. The guideline:

  • details planning controls for development surrounding Siding Spring Observatory
  • provides advice on how to minimise light pollution in different settings
  • details good lighting design principles.

Download and view the Dark Sky Planning Guideline (PDF, 5.3 MB).

The Dark Sky Planning Guideline is being updated

The department is proposing changes to the Dark Sky Planning Guideline and associated planning controls. There are several planning controls that inform different types of developments on land surrounding the observatory.

These amendments are designed to ensure the guideline and controls remain fit for purpose, while ensuring that development can still be carried out easily, provided it does not negatively impact the night sky. Some of the changes include:

  • Amending State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) to make it clearer what types of development can be carried out as exempt development in the area surrounding the observatory.
  • Updating planning instruments so that the Dark Sky controls apply to the recently formed Dubbo Regional Local Government Area.
  • Including controls in the Housing Alterations Code to align complying development controls and protect the night sky near Siding Spring Observatory.
  • Updating the guideline and including more detailed guidance on skylights and illuminated signs.
  • Adding model conditions of consent to the guideline for the four local councils surrounding the observatory.

An Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE) of the changes was on public exhibition between 26 September and 24 October 2022. You can access a copy of the EIE at the NSW Planning Portal.

In our video Dark Sky Guidelines [2:16] Chief Astronomer Fred Watson talks about how our guideline is helping protect Siding Spring Observatory.