Ban on balloon and lantern releases approved as Hartlepool councillors call for awareness campaign

Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs agree to raise awareness of altrnatives to balloon releases.
Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs agree to raise awareness of altrnatives to balloon releases.

Council bosses have urged people in the area to get behind a ban on balloon and lantern releases and look to other memorial activities.

Hartlepool Borough Council neighbourhood service committee approved plans to adopt a policy calling for no balloon and sky lantern releases on council owned and managed land.

A 14-week public consultation and awareness campaign was carried out by the council between July and October this year to give people the chance to comment on the proposal.

In total 94.5% of respondents stated that they supported the council adopting a non release policy of balloons and sky lanterns.

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher said it was now about spreading the message to people of the move and encourage other alternatives.

He said: “At this stage I think its about urging members of the public to look at other ways.

“At the time you do these kind of things without being aware of the full environmental impact, this is our opportunity to really promote it more.

“This is just the start of it, it’s the opportunity to say to the public we’ve now got a policy in place, let’s speak about it.

“There’s been a lot of dialogue around the nation and people coming to terms that what may have happened in the past isn’t always the right thing.”

He also said social media messages and signage need to be in place to educate people on the impact of the releases and he expects people will educate each other over the new policy.

Coun Sue Little said: “You tend to see a lot of Chinese lanterns coming over Seaton on New Year’s Eve, its detrimental to lifeboats.

“You’d be surprised how many lanterns get lit.

“This needs to be massively promoted.”

The committee also approved creating a memorial wood at Summerhill to grow memorial trees, shrubs and wildlife as an alternative to the releases.

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher raised a motion to explore other sites in the Northern area of the town for memorial sites.

Chris Scaife, countryside access officer, said it was about educating and informing people who would carry out such releases.

He said: “The policing of the non-release is something that has caused us concern.

“For the right emotional reasons people are releasing the balloons or the Chinese lanterns.

“It’s not something I’d like to clamp down on to make them feel they’ve done something illegal.

“I would prefer to educate and inform people and urge them to change to more environmental ways of expressing emotion and commemoration.”

Tony Hanson, the council’s assistant director for environment and neighbourhood services, said there was a ‘really good’ response to the consultation with almost 900 taking part and was ‘surprisingly happy’ with the large response.

He also said the next step would be to get the message out there and look at alternatives.

He said: “It’s the next part of the process, the next step is to engage and do a public awareness campaign around some of the work we have to do.

“We need to ensure we get the message out there that people know what the alternatives are.”

At present, 77 local authorities in the UK have signed up to support the ban on balloon releases, with 4 in the North East of England, adopting a non-release policy on all balloon and sky lantern releases on council owned and managed land.

The Marine Conservation Society also continues to campaign to raise awareness of the negative impact of the balloon releases.

Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporting Service