Plans to ban sky lanterns and balloon releases in Waveney to be discussed

Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky.

Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky. - Credit: AP

The release of balloons and sky lanterns could soon be banned on Waveney District Council-controlled land under proposals being considered next week.

Leader of Waveney District Council Colin Law.

Leader of Waveney District Council Colin Law. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The ban is being considered in response to concerns raised by farmers' groups, animal welfare and wildlife organisations and Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

If approved, the restriction would affect all public and council-owned land where Waveney is required to provide permission for an event to take place, including parks, beaches, public highways and the seafront.

A report for the meeting states there is sufficient national evidence to show that the mass release of balloons and sky lanterns outdoors 'poses a significant threat of harm to wildlife and livestock from ingestions, entanglement, entrapment and through the panic they cause'.

It says that the flame from sky lanterns could also pose a fire hazard and interfere with coastal rescue services if released out to sea, while both sky lanterns and balloons were a source of litter and waste in the environment.

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It adds: 'Acting now and raising awareness before the 2015 events season should give events organisers time to find alternative fun, awareness raising and engagement events.'

Waveney leader Colin Law will present the report during the council's cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

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He said sky lanterns were a particular cause of concern.

'Waveney is not just a coastal district,' he said, 'We have farms with livestock and we have farms with crops.

'We also have wildlife which is affected by sky lanterns and so it is definitely important that these things are banned because they are a menace to crops, wildlife and livestock.

'They are also dangerous if they come down on somebody's property and are still alight. There is a real danger of setting that property on fire.'

The recommendations being made to councillors include:

• Banning sky lanterns and mass balloon releases through the terms and conditions of hire of council-owned and operated land.

• Adopting a code of conduct that discourages all staff and councillors from supporting sky lantern and mass balloon releases through funding or officer time.

• Communicating the code of conduct and encourage others to follow suit

• Promoting and supporting the Marine Conservation Society's beach watch survey, which provides information on litter on UK beaches.

The ban would be enforced by preventing an individual or organisation from hiring council-owned and operated land in the future if they are found breaching the new rules.

Mr Law said: 'We will be watching for misuse and for people who are flagrantly ignoring this.

'We can't stop people doing it in their back garden and will hope common sense will prevail.

'At the end of the day, we have got to ensure as a rural area that we protect what needs to be protected.'

The mass release of balloons and sky lanterns has already been banned on land owned and operated by Suffolk Coastal District Council.

According to the report, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and the Country Land and Business Association have all indicated their support for the proposals.

A spokesman for Suffolk Fire and Rescue service said: 'Due to the potential for unsafe use and unwanted fires, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service does not recommend the use of flying lanterns. There has been a number of significant incidents both nationally and locally involving Chinese Lanterns, including a potentially devastating incident at a Suffolk farm in 2011.

'Although spectacular, these items have the potential to be extremely dangerous. Once these lanterns have been set off, they are unpredictable and cannot be controlled. When they do eventually descend they could present a real hazard if the fire has not been properly extinguished.'

A spokesman for Suffolk Wildlife Trust said: 'We would support the council in banning the release of balloons and sky lanterns in their land. They are banned on our nature reserves as well.

'They can be quite dangerous to wildlife if ingested or if animals get caught up in them, which they sometimes do.'

The NFU is calling for sky lanterns to be banned throughout the country.

NFU rural surveyor Louise Staples said: 'They can harm or kill farm animals by ingesting a wire frame in chopped grass and there is the fire risk to standing and stored crops, to buildings and they can cause wild fires on moorland.

'We really would hope people would think twice about releasing them into the air because of the very real dangers they pose.'

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), which actively campaigns against mass balloon and sky lantern releases, also welcomed Waveney's proposals.

The organisation warned marine animals, especially turtles, can mistake floating balloons for food.

On its website, it suggest a number of alternatives to mass balloon and sky lantern releases, including virtual balloon races and releasing balloons indoors before encouraging people to pop them to find a winning raffle ticket.

MCS spokesman Richard Harrington said: 'Balloons pose hazards to wildlife in that they float, take a long time to break down and often have ribbon attached to them so they can either get ingested by animals or else they can get tangled up.

'A significant number of species have been known to have balloons in their stomachs.

'We very much welcome the move by Waveney. It sends out a good message that others can follow.'

?What do you think? Write to the Lowestoft Journal at 147 London Road North, Lowestoft, NR32 1NB or email

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