SKY LANTERNS: Release of lanterns and balloons banned on public land
A Somerset council has voted to ban the release of sky lanterns or balloons on publicly owned land in its district.
Somerset West and Taunton Council has passed a motion which will stop people from ceremonially mass balloon releases or from launching sky lanterns on any land which is in their ownership.
The council will also write to the government urging for national legislation banning such releases outright, following in the footsteps of Germany and New Zealand.
This follows a similar motion, approved in December 2020, calling on more notice to be given for firework displays across the district and encouraging local vendors to stock quieter fireworks.
Councillor Ed Firmin brought the motion before a virtual full council meeting on Thursday evening (April 29).
He said: “By obvious logic, anything that goes up has to come down – and when it does there is no real control over where that happens.
“What that can lead to is animals being affected – whether it’s the plastic of the balloons or the paper and the structure of the lantern, they might caught or be eaten, or generate create waste and rubbish in rivers or fields.
“The lanterns also have the potential to create fires where there’s lots of dry grass or hay being left around.”
The motion comprised three proposals:
- Ending the use of sky lanterns and balloons for “ceremonial release” into the open air on council-owned land
- Asking council leader Federica Smith-Roberts to write to environment secretary George Eustace MP calling for a national ban on such releases
- Raising public awareness through education of the “harmful” affect such releases can have on animals and the environment
Mr Firmin added: “The main thrust of this is for organised events, rather than trying to fine someone because they accidentally let got of a balloon on council land.”
Councillor Alan Wedderkopp, who seconded the motion, said: “This has been an ongoing affair for many, many years – people have talking about balloons being set free, coming down in the oceans and strangling turtles.
“They affect birds, fish, animals, drains – all sorts of things. Anything that helps with the rubbish problems we have in the world today, I fully support.”
The motion found widespread support among councillors, with members from multiple rural wards backing the change.
Councillor Roger Habgood said: “If you were up on the Quantocks or Exmoor in any of the last three or four weeks, you’d have noticed we’re in a very dry period of time. A lantern landing on the Quantocks at the moment would take out an extensive area of heathland.”
Councillor Ross Henley added: “The ward I represent [Hatch and Blackdown] has a huge amount of forest – it probably has the most trees of any ward in the district. These lanterns are a menace.”
Some, however, thought some felt the proposals did not go far enough to address the problem.
Councillor Chris Morgan (Conservative, Quantock Vale) argued that public space protection orders (PSPOs) would prove far more effective and allow the council to crack down on multiple kinds of offences.
He said: “One of the major problems I have to deal with at my end of the district is dog fouling.
“PSPOs would cover everything – until such time that we’ve got some kind of holistic plan, it’s almost petty to look at one without looking at everything else.”
Councillor Marcus Barr added: “I don’t think it goes far enough. If I’m on private land, I suppose I could let one off – but my poor neighbour next door, who lives in a council house on council land, wouldn’t be able to let one off.
“I would like to see a total ban on sky lanterns in the United Kingdom.”
The motion was approved by a large margin, with Mr Morgan abstaining from the vote.
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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