Agenda Item No
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Cabinet Meeting: 26 January, 2015
Report of the Leader
Purpose of the Report
1. To consider the introduction of a prohibition on the release of Sky Lanterns from Council owned land.
1. THAT The Vale of Glamorgan Council prohibits the release of sky lanterns from all Council land, including schools, with immediate effect.
2. THAT the prohibition on the use of sky lanterns would also apply to events organised by third parties which are held on Council property.
3. THAT information is provided to the media and details of the prohibition displayed on the Council website.
Reasons for the Recommendations
1. To prevent the use of sky lanterns on all Council owned land to avoid the risk of fire and the danger to animals from the remaining metal wiring.
2. To ensure events organised by third parties are included in the prohibition.
3. To ensure the prohibitions are effectively publicised.
2. In recent years local authorities, charities and other agencies have lobbied the Government calling for the ban of sky lanterns in the UK.
3. The Government decided not to prohibit sky lanterns, but in August 2014 the Trading Standards Institute, following discussions between Government and industry, issued an industry code of practice to provide guidance for manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of sky lanterns, covering their manufacture, and warnings and instructions that must be provided
4. Several Local Authorities in Wales including Conwy, Caerphilly and Pembroke already have bans in place prohibiting the use of sky lanterns on their land.
5. Retailers including Tesco and Poundland have now stopped the sale of sky lanterns in their stores.
Relevant Issues and Options
6. Sky lanterns do present a significant fire hazard especially where the lantern is unable to stay upright in the air due to obstacles or the wind; the paper may ignite and become a fire hazard. The lantern may then travel to the ground whilst still lit and become a risk to crops, woodland and property. In a nationwide survey in 2011, a third of Britain's fire brigades said they had received emergency callouts to extinguish lanterns. Damage has included scorched gardens and roofs. The Fire Service has also received a number of false alarms as the lanterns had burned themselves out en route to site wasting valuable resources. The worst related fire dealt with by the Fire Service was on the 1st July 2013 when a serious fire in the West Midlands of England, involving 100,000 tonnes of recycling material and causing an estimated six million pounds worth of damage, was started by a sky lantern which landed at a plastics recycling plant in Smethwick.
7. In relation to Animal Welfare, after contact with the ground the leftover thin wire frame will rust away very slowly, remaining a hazard to pets, wild animals and livestock that may ingest the material. The frames may in some cases be cut up with hay and fed unintentionally to horses causing a ruptured stomach leading to an agonising death. Cases of this have unfortunately been documented where in 2010, a cow died from eating a piece of a lantern's wire frame, which ruptured it’s stomach, and a foal had to be euthanised after it injured itself on a fence because it was startled by two lights that landed in its field. Additionally many smaller animals may become entangled in the debris left on the ground.
8. There are also other impacts on the environment: The littering left as a result of the lantern will impact the environment on both land and sea. In 2012 the Marine Conservation Society raised concerns after a survey of beaches found an increase in rubber, paper and pieces of metal. The charity requested that the lanterns should be classed as litter so people releasing them could be fined as much as £2,500, arguing that they are a danger to marine life, amongst other things. ‘Biodegradable’ lanterns such as Bamboo can also take decades to degrade and still pose the same risk of fire.
9. Aviation is also at risk and Sky Lanterns are a concern particularly given the location of Cardiff Airport. According to civil aviation authorities, there is a danger of lanterns being sucked into engines while airborne. On the ground, lantern debris has the potential to cause damage to aircraft engines, tyres and fuselage. In 2012, the Civil Aviation Authority in Donegal warned against the use of lanterns after one landed near a container packed with thousands of gallons of aviation fuel. Endangering an aircraft is punishable with up to 2 years imprisonment and a £5,000 fine. Organisers of events that are ten miles or less from any aerodrome, or where significant numbers of lanterns are being released at any one time, need to be aware of the potential risks to aircraft, and are urged to refer to the CAA online guidance and then, if necessary, contact either the CAA or local aerodrome with details of the event.
10. Marine concerns have also been raised by coastal rescue services in the Vale of Glamorgan. Red sky lanterns may cause false alarms where they are believed to be flares from vessels in distress. With budgets coming under increasing pressure public services such as the coastguard cannot afford to waste resources pursuing false call outs. In 2010, the RNLI advised that it had noted a significant increase in the number of lifeboat callouts caused by Sky Lanterns.
11. Finally there are significant risks to Consumer Safety as the product when lit shows a naked flame which could conceivably lead to injuries if used incorrectly or if obtained by children.
12. There is no national legislation available to control this new problem and therefore it is up to each organisation to consider the issue for themselves. As discussed above some major retailers and local authorities have already acted to address the risk from Sky Lanterns. It is proposed therefore that the Vale of Glamorgan Council introduces a ban on the release of Sky Lanterns from all its land, including schools premises.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
13. The cost of introducing a ban from Council owned land, including any publicity, would be found from existing budgets.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
14. This proposal seeks to have a positive effect on the sustainability and well-being of animals and residents in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
15. The ban is not enforceable by law but can be included in Council policies and permission agreements for the use of Council land. The ban would have limited other legal implications.
Crime and Disorder Implications
16. The introduction of a ban on the release of Sky Lanterns from Council land could assist in the reduction of anti-social behaviour and damage to animals, people and property.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
18. To promote a safe, fair, attractive and secure environment for residents, businesses and visitors through a range of activities.
19. Ensuring animal welfare in line the Councils Animal Welfare Charter.
Policy Framework and Budget
20. This is a matter for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
21. This report is not ward specific.
22. The following have provided contributions in the preparation of this report:
Chris Owen - RSPCA
Carl Evans - South Wales Fire and Rescue Service
Russell Clements - Cardiff Wales Airport
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
23. Housing and Public Protection.
Christina Roberts-Kinsey – Principal Trading Standards Officer. Tel. 01446 709344
Richard Price – Legal
Laura Davis - Finance
Sarah Jones - Events Officer, Leisure and Tourism
Jenifer Hill - Education
Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services