HAMPSHIRE’S two national parks are to have LED street lights in a bid to restore views of star-filled night skies.

Campaigners have welcomed the move by the county council to switch to dark-sky friendly lamps in residential streets in South Downs and New Forest national parks at a cost of £1m.

LED lanterns are about twice as expensive as conventional street lamps, but reduce night sky light pollution and are more energy-efficient.

The lights are expected to save £24,000 each year on energy bills as well as 138 tonnes of carbon emissions.

environment and transport chief Mel Kendal approved plans for 3,600 LED lamps as part of a multi-million pound private finance initiative project to replace ageing street lights across the county.

A small scale test of the LED technology has already been conducted in Stanier Way, Hedge End . The lanterns can be dimmed.

SSE Contracting will be carrying out the work.

In the New Forest, Brockenhurst, Sway and Beaulieu are among the towns and villages to benefit from the new LED lights while West Meon is on the list in South Downs. Graham Bryant, chairman of Hampshire Astronomical Group, said members had lobbied for years to reduce light pollution in South Downs National Park and welcomed the new LED street lamps.

Mr Bryant, who is also a leading member of Campaign For Dark Skies, said: “LED lighting is better because it is more controllable. It can be directed to light the ground whereas conventional street lamps throw a lot of light into the sky, up to 30 per cent in some cases.”

He said light pollution made it difficult to study the stars.

“It’s like a veil of dim light in the sky which masks fainter stars so only brighter stars shine through and not the Milky Way. “It’s denying people the opportunity to see the glory of a starry night which is part of our environment and heritage. Many rural villages don’t want street lights because of that issue. “When people go to the countryside they are usually blown away by seeing the night sky for the first time. On a clear night, you can see thousands of stars with the naked eye - and millions more with binoculars or a telescope.” The local authority plans to only replace street lights in residential streets with LED lights – and not those on major roads.