A multi-million pound programme to replace street lights in North Yorkshire has been tailored to protect the county's dark skies.

North Yorkshire County Council’s engineers have conducted the ambitious programme to replace more than 50,400 street lights with energy-saving LED lamps in a push to slash the authority’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The scheme has replaced street lights in the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales with warmer tone LED lights, rather than the cooler tone LED lights that were installing elsewhere.

The International Dark-Sky Association revealed the decision to give protected status to the National Parks in December.

Paul Gilmore, the council’s electrical engineering manager, is himself a keen amateur astronomer.

He said: "I have spent the last 30 years as a street lighting engineer putting lights in, and now I am spending my time turning them off or dimming them or making them less bright. But my team buys into that. The more we understand about the impact of artificial light, the more it makes sense.”

The street light programme was completed in three years, rather than the five years it was originally estimated to take.

The programme was expected to cost nearly £13m but through procurement, the team has brought that cost down to just over £8m.

With capital costs reduced by more than £4m and as energy and maintenance savings of £1.285m are projected from 2021/2022, the anticipated payback of the scheme has dropped from over 12 years to under eight years.

The North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales are home to some of the darkest skies in the country, with large areas of unpolluted night skies.

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s head of polyhalite projects, Mike Hawtin, added: “This brings benefits to the county in so many ways.

“We attract people into the National Parks in the depths of winter for the Dark Skies Festival with all the knock-on income from accommodation and hospitality bookings. Without that agreement with the council, we could not demonstrate that we were in control of lighting across the National Parks. It would have been a major mark against our application.”