Crackdown on releasing Chinese sky lanterns in Lewes district

Sky Lanterns
Sky Lanterns

Releasing Chinese sky lanterns at events held on public land has been banned in the Lewes district.

Lewes District Council’s cabinet agreed to ban the releasing of sky lanterns and helium balloons at events held on council land by introducing new licensing rules at a meeting on Monday (February 11).

The move follows a proposal from Liberal Democrat group leader Sarah Osborne, which was backed by the council’s Conservative-led cabinet at a meeting in December.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Osborne said: “I’m pleased that we are now a lot closer to having formal regulations  in place that will stop people releasing lighted lanterns and helium balloons on council land.

“The lanterns can float for miles and when they come down can cause dreadful injuries to animals and present a real fire risk.”

According to an officers’ report, the lanterns can also pose a risk to coastal rescue services as they may be mistaken for a flare.

It is also widely reported that sky lanterns and helium balloons create a risk to livestock, cause littering and can be a risk to aviation, the report says.

The ban will apply to all council event hires, with anyone breaching the rule likely to lose their deposit and be turned down from hiring council land in future.

However concerns were raised about whether such a ban would prove effective at reducing the use of lanterns and balloons.  

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Green Party councillor Johnny Denis (Ouse Valley and Ringmer) said: “The event hire licence assumes people have sought permission in the first place to be in a place where they will launch lanterns.

“I suspect many of the launches of these lanterns are probably informal, social events where nobody has sought any permission from anyone to be where they are launching these things.

“They may even be launching from private gardens but they are ending up somewhere else.

“I’m not quite sure what this will do, sadly. I really approve of it and it is a great idea, but I’m not sure if we have any correlation between where they come from and where they end up.”

In response to Cllr Denis, officers said the council intends to monitor the complaints it receives about lanterns and balloons being released over the next year.

By doing so, officers said, the council can see if it would want to bring in stronger measures against the releasing of lanterns and balloons, such as a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

Such an order could lead to an outright ban the release of lanterns and balloons, but would require the council to provide evidence that launches are unreasonable, persistent in nature and are likely to have a detrimental effect on residents’ quality of life.

The council also plans to encourage other groups – such as town and parish councils – to consider introducing similar bans on releasing balloons and lanterns.