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Swale councillors unanimously agree to ban use of sky lanterns and balloons across borough

By Chloe Holmwood

Councillors who supported a ban on sky lanterns and helium balloons insist they are not being "killjoys".

Swale council unanimously agreed to a ban, suggested by Cllr Cameron Beart (Con), at a meeting on Wednesday.

Cllr Beart, who represents Queenborough and Halfway, said the idea was "not to be a killjoy, but to highlight a real danger to our natural environment".

Sky lanterns have been banned from use in Swale
Sky lanterns have been banned from use in Swale

He said: "While these activities may offer a few moments of entertainment, they pose a far more significant risk than many who use them actually realise.

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

Cllr Beart added lanterns were often caught by the wind and could travel several miles.

"Their path is variable and unpredictable," he said. "If they touch down while still alight, they pose a significant fire hazard to buildings, crops and animals, whereas if they touch down once extinguished, they blight the landscape as litter and can entangle animals or, worse still, can be ingested."

Cllr Cameron Beart
Cllr Cameron Beart

Balloons, he said, took longer to degrade than lanterns.

The release of lanterns on the seafront had become increasingly common, Cllr Beart added.

However, he said, between 2007 and 2012, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the RNLI attributed 1,679 reports of emergencies at sea as having been caused by a sky lantern.

The motion bans balloons and lanterns being released on land owned or maintained by Swale council and at all events it organises, supports, funds or licenses.

This includes public beaches, parks, sports grounds, play areas and woodlands - such as Faversham Recreation Ground, Minster Leas and Milton Creek Country Park.

Former Mayor of Swale, Cllr Anita Walker, released balloons to mark the Neighbourhood Furniture Store's 10th anniversary in Sittingbourne
Former Mayor of Swale, Cllr Anita Walker, released balloons to mark the Neighbourhood Furniture Store's 10th anniversary in Sittingbourne

Council leader Cllr Andrew Bowles (Con) supported the ban. He said: "We shouldn't allow a few moments’ pleasure to have a detrimental affect on the future of this planet and the future of all its non-human living residents."

Cllr Gerry Lewin (Con) added: "As a member of the RNLI station committee in Sheerness I clearly welcome this. It will enable resources, that should be saving lives at sea, to be put to better use."

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