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Fireworks over Folkestone & Hythe

FireworksAt the online Folkestone and Hythe District Council (F&HDC) meeting tonight (21 October), Lib Dems Tim Prater and Gary Fuller successfully moved a motion on fireworks that recevied wide cross-Party backing.

The motion sought to introduce measures to reduce the distress that fireworks cause to the elderly, children, pets and other animals, while also recognising the pleasure that fireworks bring to many. It also sought to ban the release of sky lanterns from F&HDC land.

After debate, the motion was carried with 27 votes for with 2 abstensions.

In moving the motion, Tim said:

"I'm sure that all Councillors, from all Parties, will have had issues raised at different times around the use of fireworks. That's where this motion comes tonight - an email to me from a local resident on 1 January this year. I'm sure many of us have had such emails.

"Fireworks, especially when unexpected, can cause fear and distress to neighbours, including the elderly, children, our pets and other animals.

"It's not being a killjoy to understand that. We want to minimise that distress and fear, while understanding the pleasure fireworks can bring too.

"Being clear: this motion does not ban fireworks. The council has no powers to do so even if it wanted to.

"And it does not ban private firework displays, and does not limit public ones.

"Moving to the detail, although discussion of public fireworks displays seems pretty optimistic at this time, this is an important issue, and will be again in coming months and years.

"The motion calls for all publicly organised firework displays within the district on our land or elsewhere to be advertised in a common place online. That's good for both the event, and its neighbours. Win / win, and low cost. We can do it on our own website if we chose to, or signpost one.

"It seeks that the Council runs reminder campaigns about the impact of fireworks on animal welfare and vulnerable people. No-one holds a private fireworks party intending to upset their neighbours or terrify animals. Again: win / win, and low cost.

"There are a number of other points proposed. They seek to encourage quieter options where possible, limit sales as much as possible to full time, specialist retailers, and to the work of Trading Standards as effective as it can be with the support of the public.

"And also, it calls for a ban on the release of sky lanterns from F&HDC land, as well as writing to the Government urging them to consider banning sky lanterns in the UK. That would bring us in line with many other places, including Australia, Spain, Germany ,Brazil and 30 US states amongst others.

"We can't ban the use of sky lanterns in the district without legislation. But we can add licencing conditions to ensure they are not released in events held on land we own. They are beautiful flying fire bombs: dangerous to property, land and wildlife. How they are legal I don't understand, but that's for Government. We, however, CAN make the point that they should not be released from our land, parks and beaches.

"I'd hope that all Councillors can back this motion. It gives us some clear actions the Council can work on and is specific, achievable and inexpensive. It respects that fireworks and displays are legal. And it will provide some much needed relief to those residents that are scared by fireworks, whether they are old and young, human or animal."

The full motion as moved read:

This Council resolves to:

1. Encourage all publicly organised firework displays within the district area to be advertised online in advance of the event by offering or signposting a free listing service, so that residents can both enjoy the celebrations and take precautions for their animals and vulnerable people;

2.Promote a public awareness campaign about the impact of fireworks on animal welfare and vulnerable people and the precautions that can be taken to mitigate risks, such as asking people to let neighbours know about private displays in advance, and the penalties for causing a noise nuisance late at night where not allowed by legislation;

3.Encourage retailers to follow the lead of Sainsburys in withdrawing the sale of fireworks to the public;

4.Develop and promote a voluntary local code on firework sale licenced premises to promote quieter firework options;

5.Write to the UK Government urging them to introduce legislation to limit the maximum noise level of fireworks to 90dB for those sold to the public for private display;

6.Encourage the public to notify KCC Trading Standards of retail outlets that are not correctly applying the regulations of the selling of fireworks both in terms of age-appropriateness, licensing and CE markings;

7.Given the damage they cause and risk they present, institute a ban on the release of sky lanterns from F&HDC land, and write to the UK Government urging them to consider banning sky lanterns in the UK in total.