LOOK into the sky on a clear night and the chances are you will see only a tiny fraction of the thousands of stars which should be visible.

This is because light from street lamps and other sources in urban areas like Swindon shines upwards obscuring the night sky.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) is lobbying the Government to take action to remedy the problem.

And it has been backed by the Swindon-based Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) - a Government body which funds scientists.

Apparently the problem can be solved easily by making subtle changes to the way street lights are designed.

PPARC spokesman Robin Clegg said: "Many people living in towns and cities can't see the stars in the night sky at all.

"People who travel overseas and have a holiday in a remote location get a shock when they see a really dark night sky. You can see thousands and thousands of stars and it's quite inspirational.

"Human beings have always wondered about the stars they see and our place in the universe.

"A lot of the public feel that has been taken away from them."

Mr Clegg lives in Highworth and said people can see quite a number of stars there, although the situation is completely different in Swindon.

He said the problem can be solved quite cheaply by designing or altering lights to make sure all the light points downwards rather than going up into the sky. This also leads to energy savings.

According to the CPRE, Wiltshire has experienced a 25 per cent increase in light pollution over the last 10 years.

Spokesman Roger Martin said: "There's still nowhere near enough awareness about light pollution nor are there enough policies to prevent its rapid growth from continuing.

"That's got to change before we close our window on the universe and lose one of the most precious views there is."

The charity wants individuals, businesses and local and central government to take more care in the design and use of lights.

It has also called for councils to adopt light pollution policies but so far the message does not seem to have got through to Swindon.

Council spokeswoman Sarah Deacon said the Swindon Council does not have a light pollution policy or any plans to implement one.

For more information about the CPRE and its campaign in Wiltshire, contact Margaret Armand-Smith at Wyndhams, St Josephs Place, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 1DD or ring 01380 722157.