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Benny the Beluga: Gravesham council postpones fireworks display to keep whale safe

A council is postponing its fireworks display in a bid to keep a Beluga whale safe.

Dubbed Benny, the Arctic mammal appeared thousands of miles from home in the River Thames off Shorne Marshes, Gravesend, last month.

His appearance has drawn in crowds from miles around and it looks as if Benny may be here for the long run.

Benny surfaces near Shorne Marshes. Picture: Fraser Gray (4909813)
Benny surfaces near Shorne Marshes. Picture: Fraser Gray (4909813)

His residence has led Gravesham council, having consulted with colleagues at the Port of London Authority (PLA), to take the step of stalling its display at the Riverside Leisure Area on Friday, November 2, until the 3.5 metre whale has left the area.

Fireworks were to be set off from a barge in the Thames.

The environmental advice on the effects of fireworks on or over the river is that they would cause disturbance to Benny.

Photographers flocked to try and picture the rare Whale. Picture: Fraser Gray. Contact: fraser.tekknoir@googlemail.com. (4909788)
Photographers flocked to try and picture the rare Whale. Picture: Fraser Gray. Contact: fraser.tekknoir@googlemail.com. (4909788)

Council leader Cllr David Turner said: “Following advice from the Port of London Authority, we have decided to postpone the Gravesham Fireworks this year.

“While we are very disappointed at having to postpone the fireworks, we understand the need to keep Benny safe, must take priority. Every effort will be made to reschedule this hugely popular event, but a decision cannot be made now as no-one knows how long Benny will remain in residence here.

“While we understand this is also disappointing to the thousands of residents and visitors who enjoy our fantastic fireworks display every year, we have to ensure our special visitor is kept safe and well.

“We have considered alternative sites, but there is not a big enough area we can use for the 15,000 people that attend our fireworks display. Also, the advice given to us is that we ‘should not re-arrange the fireworks to take place near the river in the Gravesend area’, as this may still disturb Benny.

“Keeping Benny safe has to be our priority while he visits us here in Gravesend, thousands of miles from his usual Arctic habitat. I’m sure everyone, while disappointed by this postponement of the fireworks, will understand.”

Gravesham council has taken the step almost a month after Benny the Beluga appeared (4909349)
Gravesham council has taken the step almost a month after Benny the Beluga appeared (4909349)

Gravesham council has been advised that disturbing the whale would be in breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

With this in mind the council is urging residents and businesses to think twice about holding private firework displays near the river in Gravesend, and has labelled the mission #KeepBennySafe

The fireworks will be rearranged when Benny leaves Gravesend and the council will theme the revised display around Benny, "ensuring everyone has a whale of a time."


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