SOMERSET: Quiet fireworks lobbying
A Somerset council is to lobby the government for noise restrictions on fireworks being purchased for private displays.
Nearly 100 people from across the district signed a petition in November 2020, calling on Sedgemoor District Council to limit the nights when fireworks could be set off and restricting their sale solely to licensed professionals.
The council has now agreed to follow the lead of Somerset West and Taunton Council and lobby Defra for new laws restricting the maximum noise levels of any fireworks sold to the public.
The new noise limits, if implemented, will not apply to larger organised events – meaning traditions such as the squibbing ceremony at Bridgwater Carnival will not be adversely affected.
Under the Firework Regulations 2004, fireworks cannot be set off at any time between 11pm and 7am all year round – except for Bonfire Night (when the cut-off is midnight) and New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year (when the cut-off is 1am).
Since these regulations came into force, the RSPCA has raised concerns about the impact of private firework displays on domestic animals and livestock, and has campaigned for local authorities to implement new policies limiting their use.
The council’s community scrutiny committee considered the issue in February and again in September, putting forward suggestions for new policies to the executive when it met in Bridgwater on Wednesday morning (October 13).
Under the new policies, anyone wishing to organise a public firework display within the Sedgemoor area must advertise the event to local residents at least seven days in advance.
Residents are encouraged to attend advertised, organised events rather than have their own private displays, giving vulnerable people and animal owners more time to prepare.
Residents are also encouraged to use ‘quiet’ fireworks (less than 97dB), as opposed to the louder fireworks used at professional displays and events, with local shops being encouraged to stock the quieter types.
The policy is intended as a guide rather than a legally binding document, and cannot be enforced by either the police or council officers.
Rose Stokes, the council’s communities officer, said the policy was intended to limit the impact of residential displays rather than prevent the public from enjoying larger licensed events.
She said in her written report: “The intention is to encourage the public to attend organised firework events rather than using fireworks at home.
“The organised events are encouraged to advertise in advance to allow time for actions or precautions to be taken where possible for animals and vulnerable people.
“It was felt that if more attend public displays, it limits the overall impact of fireworks.”
The RSPCA claims on its website that around 62 per cent of dogs show “signs of distress” as a result of fireworks, along with 54 per cent of cats and 55 per cent of horses.
The British Horse Society has also reported 20 deaths, ten severe injuries and 88 mild to moderate injuries to horses involving fireworks since 2010.
Councillor Janet Keen, portfolio holder for communities and well-being, said the council’s approach to firework displays was proportionate and said changes in the law would benefit rather than penalise residents.
She said: “The wording of this policy is exactly right. It is not punitive, it is informative, advisory and does not in any way seek to spoil people’s enjoyment.”
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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