Sky lantern and balloon releases an ‘emotive’ issue

A sky lantern is released (file photo).
A sky lantern is released (file photo).

A ban on releasing sky lanterns and balloons from council-owned land is a step closer to being introduced in Mid and East Antrim.

The recommendation was agreed at last night’s meeting of the local government authority’s Operational Committee.

The ban was proposed due to the fire safety and litter considerations posed when the objects return to ground, members heard.

There is also a potential threat to animals and livestock, who can ingest the materials or become entangled in them.

Some 30 other councils in the UK have already implemented the ban, according to MEA Director of Operations, Philip Thompson.

The Chief Fire Officers’ Association, National Farmers’ Union, Women’s Farmers Union, Marine Conservation Society, Country Land Owners’ Association and RSPCA are just some of the groups urging individuals to use alternatives to sky lanterns.

The Marine Conservation Society, RSPCA, RSPB, Keep Britain Tidy and the National Farmers Union have also been calling for bans on mass balloon releases for a number of years.

A council report stated: “The legacy council of Carrickfergus actively discouraged the release of balloons and lanterns on its land and offered alternative solutions such as using stationary candles or nightlights in static lanterns, petal floating, the planting of a memorial tree, bubble blowing, virtual balloon releases and races.”

The council is also being asked to adopt a code of conduct, which would commit “all staff and elected members to not directly support Chinese (sky) lantern and mass balloon releases through funding or officer time.”

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Mark McKinty cautioned that the use of lanterns and balloons by groups for memorial and celebratory purposes could make it an “emotive” issue. “Could we perhaps defer this decision for a month to engage with some of the groups who hold these type of events?” he added.

Responding, Mr Thompson indicated that the proposal dealt with the release of sky lanterns and balloons from council-owned land only, and did not cover private land. “We have to show leadership on this,” he added. “There are more lasting alternatives that could be suggested to groups in some of these situations, such as the planting of a memorial tree.”

Meanwhile, the issue will be brought before next month’s meeting of the council to be ratified.