STARGAZERS in Hampshire fear plans by Southampton City Council to fire giant lasers across the county could ruin their view of the night sky.

Members of the Solent Amateur Astronomers Club - one of the largest in the south - say that controversial plans unveiled by council leisure bosses to beam a laser light show from the Civic Centre clock tower could obscure the view of the stars over Hampshire.

Club members - based at the Toothill Observatory near Rownhams - are set to have an extraordinary meeting within the next few days to voice their concerns about the plans.

They are also angered that the city council did not consult them about the scheme which is due to be launched in April next year to coincide with the 95th anniversary of the loss of the Titanic.

Pete Cutler from the society told the Daily Echo: "They have not consulted us. They have not spoken to us at all. The only people we have spoken to are from the Highways Agency about plans to widen the motorway next year because a section through Rownhams is going to be lit up but they have shown us that all the lights are going to be shining towards the ground so that no light goes into the atmosphere.

"Hopefully, the council's plan will not cause us a problem but it is likely to. If you are going to shine a light up in the sky it will spoil it for people who want dark skies."

The plans were also condemned by Brockenhurst based amateur astronomer Greg Parker who erected an observatory in his back garden earlier this year.

He said the council's plans amounted to "vandalism" of the night sky and added: "There is a very good chance it will affect us. There will be light pollution with a great big searchlight across the sky. I am very strongly against it. It is light vandalism."

A spokeswoman for Southampton City Council said: "We conducted extensive consultations on the scheme. The designers assure us that lasers generate virtually no light pollution.

"All that will be visible will be a pencil thin 2.7mm beam which will not affect star gazing in the way that street lighting or illumination from sports fixtures do."

The project, which is the brainchild of Southampton Partnership would see lasers shining from the Civic Centre clock tower which would be visible for up to 14 miles from the city centre.

They would be fired up in early April as part of the city's 95th anniversary commemorations of the sinking of the Titanic and would be visible from dusk until midnight every day.

The scheme - dubbed Southampton Laser Gateway - is due to cost £249,000 and is being paid for by the South East of England Development Agency. It will be discussed by members of the council's ruling Liberal Democrat Cabinet on Monday, January 8 before a final decision on the scheme is made on January 22.

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