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Backing for a ban on the release of sky lanterns and balloons

Monday 27 November 

Councillors say no to sky lantern and balloon releases

Councillors have unanimously backed a ban on the release of sky lanterns and balloons from council land.

The ban, which includes areas such as Faversham Recreation Ground, Minster Leas and Milton Creek Country Park, was agreed at Swale Borough Council’s council meeting on Wednesday, 22 November.

A motion was submitted to the council by Cllr Cameron Beart, ward member for Queenborough and Halfway, who highlighted the dangers balloon and sky lantern releases pose to the local environment.

Cllr Beart, said:

"We are lucky to live in a borough that is rich with farmland, award winning coastline and internationally recognised natural environments like our bird reserves.

"All of these are endangered by these activities in one way or another and through taking action on this, I believe we can educate and work to avoid future damage.

"Often caught by the winds, lanterns can travel several miles and their path is variable and unpredictable with no responsibility borne by the person who released them.

"They can pose a significant fire hazard, and even if they touch down once extinguished, they blight the landscape as litter and can entangle animals or - worse still - be eaten by them."

Cllr David Simmons, cabinet member for environment and rural affairs at the council, said:

"Litter is litter – whether it is a sky lantern, balloon, cigarette butt or a burger wrapper.

"People want to enjoy the countryside, without seeing it spoiled by rubbish blown in from who knows where.

"This ban shows we are determined to take action and encourage people to think about the consequences of their actions, and behave responsibly."

The ban means groups or organisations using council-owned land for events will not be allowed to release balloons or sky lanterns including public beaches, parks, sports grounds, play areas and woodlands.

The council will also be amending the conditions of its grant funding to ensure it isn’t being used for these types of activities.

Local people will have their say on plans for how parks and open spaces are managed.

Swale Borough Council’s cabinet approved plans to consult on a new Open Spaces and Play Strategy for the borough.

The draft strategy sets out how the council, working with residents and partners, will protect, maintain and enhance the open spaces it runs over the next five years.

It has been put together following a range of assessments and inspections of parks and open spaces, and sets out how decisions about them will be made.

Cllr David Simmons, cabinet member for environment and rural affairs at the council, said:

"Our stunning and distinctive environment is one of our greatest assets, and included an outstanding range of internationally and nationally important landscapes.

"They provide opportunities for formal sport, play or simply a place to meet with friends and neighbours.

"This strategy has been developed to help us focus on what is important over the next five years. We want to make sure we have the right number of open spaces, and that the quality is maintained and important sites are prioritised for future enhancement."

Open spaces include parks and gardens, natural/semi-natural greenspace, green corridors, outdoor sports and playing pitches, general amenity space and play areas.

The draft strategy confirms there is a sufficient amount of council-owned and managed open spaces for the current population, with the exception of cemetery capacity. It says the focus of the next five years should be on improving the quality of existing open spaces that have been assessed as of low quality, with particular attention being paid to play areas.

It proposes investing at least £500,000 on existing open spaces over the next five years, and developing a rolling programme of refurbishments for a number of play areas during the life of the strategy.

The strategy was discussed at cabinet on Wednesday, 4 October, and a consultation on the final version will begin in few weeks.

The report on the strategy, including a link to the draft version, is available here.