On Wednesday 27th March Ruth George, MP for High Peak is introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill to prohibit the use of Sky Lanterns in England following a Sky Lantern event being organising during last summer’s wildfires in the Peak District.
Ruth said: “Last year I was shocked that a Sky Lantern Festival was organised on the moorlands of High Peak, at a time when wild fires were raging and our fire service was pushed to its limit.
“I was appalled that in spite of opposition from Derbyshire Fire Service and local councils, there was no legislation to enable them to prevent such a dangerous event going ahead. In the end it was down to local campaigners and myself putting pressure on the venue that finally led them to cancel the event.
“Sky Lanterns are airborne flames – you cannot predict where they will land, and they have caused several major fires in recent years. They are also a danger to wildlife and farm animals, and a cause of littering in wild and beautiful places like the Peak District.
“That’s why I’m introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill to prohibit the use of sky lanterns with the support of MPs from across the House. Communities, farmers, and especially our fire service need to know that are safe from the irresponsible use of sky lanterns.
“Whilst Ten Minute Rule Bills do not automatically become law, they are an important means to demonstrate a viable and popular Bill that can be easily transposed into appropriate legislation. I am seeking a meeting with the Secretary of State for the Environment with a view to doing this at the earliest opportunity.
“In the meantime, I hope that the strength of feeling in Parliament, demonstrated by the Bill, will deter organisations from seeking to arrange mass events.”
The NFU, RSPCA, Peak District National Park and Derbyshire Fire Service are supporting the Bill.
Terry McDermott, Chief Fire Officer for Derbyshire said: “The heatwave of 2018 brought with it major moorland fires across the UK. These fires resulted in devastation to the natural landscape, resources from across the UK fire and rescue service were deployed for several weeks tackling these wild fires at great cost to the UK taxpayer.
“As a Chief Fire Officer leading a Service that’s main aims are to protect our communities by preventing and responding to fires and other emergencies, I was surprised that appropriate legislation was not in place to prevent the reckless release of sky lanterns proposed in the height of summer in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire.
“The Derbyshire Events Safety Advisory Group strongly opposed this event, but still were not readily equipped with legislation that could prevent it going ahead. It was only with increasing pressure and community support that the host venue thankfully withdrew support.
“But of course, the use of sky lanterns is not limited to any specific time of the year and they still have the potential to cause major incidents, damage the countryside, farming economy and wildlife, even when they are released in residential areas as there is no way of predicting where they will land. In 2013 a sky lantern was believed to have caused a huge fire at a recycling plant in Smethwick. 100,000 tonnes of plastic were involved in this fire, causing damage totalling £6m, putting three firefighters in hospital and over 200 firefighters were tied up tackling the blaze.
“I would support a decision to follow the lead from Wales and prohibit the use of sky lanterns in England to protect our countryside, wildlife, the farming industry and beyond.”
The RSPCA said: “As a dangerous fire hazard, fire and rescue services have emphasised the potentially devastating consequences of sky lanterns; which have been directly implicated in causing fires. As such, they risk setting farm buildings that house animals alight, and can destroy wildlife habitats. The consequences of this include potential injury or death to animals, whilst the displacement of wildlife is a possibility.
“Given our remit, the RSPCA’s focus regarding sky lanterns is the damage they can do to an animal’s welfare. Yet, a ban on their use would also have wider social benefits, chiefly enhancing community safety and reducing fire risk, whilst reducing potential problems faced by coastal rescue services and the aviation sector.”
The Peak District National Park said: “There is increasing evidence concerning the use of sky lanterns and their potential impacts on the countryside, both in terms of the health and welfare risks for livestock, unintended impact on wildlife, and he risk of fire being ignited by lanterns. A recent review carried out by Defra and the Welsh Government concluded that sky lanterns pose a significant fire risk. Due to the unpredictable nature of sky lanterns flight paths, lanterns launched some distance away (even from urban areas) can have significant consequences in the Peak District”.