Hartlepool to get chance to have a say on future of balloon and Chinese lantern releases

There are concerns lanterns could spark fire hazards
There are concerns lanterns could spark fire hazards

Hartlepool will have its say on whether balloon and Chinese lantern releases should be allowed in a bid to protect the environment.

The council will launch a consultation from next month until the end of September, giving residents and charities a chance to air their views in a report about the impact on their use, as well as an awareness campaign about their release on land owned and managed by the authority.

We hope the council take this opportunity to be the leader in the North East.

Fiona Wilkins

Hartlepool Borough Council’s efforts come amid calls by the Marine and Conservation Society to increase the understanding on the damage they can cause in the hope councils will ban them on their own land.

It has highlighted how marine wildlife has been killed by balloons, or balloon parts, and injured or restricted by ribbons.

As part of the consultation, the council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee suggested a video plays across the council network so viewers can see the range of ideas suggested to replace such events.

They include ceremonial bonfires and use of the Hartlepool Beacons, seed and tree planting to create a memorial wood and the use of bubble machines, as well as plaques and benches.

Among those to attend the committee meeting was Stephen Picton, of Miles for Men, who explained it supports the rethink and said the charity had received criticism after memorial releases.

Mr Picton said: “We agree with what you’re saying, we’re not here to hurt the environment.

“There are different things which could be done, so 500 people with sparklers, that could be just as good.

“The release people get from these things is amazing and we get a lot more good feedback than we do bad.

“We’re here to work alongside you as well as find a way where families can release that little bit of pain.”

Fiona Wilkins, a Hartlepool resident and member of Greenpeace, told the meeting: “It’s a very sensitive subject.

“We should be giving them more options, memorials, seeds, planting, bubbles, things that have a benefit to everyone.

“We hope the council take this opportunity to be the leader in the North East.”

Committee chairman Stephen Akers-Belcher gave reassurances charities will be consulted and said: “It is a very emotional subject and the last thing anybody wants to see is a penalty notice to be given to someone who is going through the bereavement process.

“There’s a lot we can do through publicity and supporting people going forward and the consultation is for anybody to get involved in looking at what options there are and help in making that final decision by the committee.”