Festive Chinese lanterns warning is issued

THINK twice before setting off Chinese flying lanterns at Christmas and New Year, urges Lancashire County Council.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 15th December 2011, 2:20 pm

It is writing to schools and other partners to raise awareness of the problems they can cause to livestock, emergency services and aviation.

County Coun. Michael Green said: “There is growing concern about the impact flying lanterns can have on private property and the environment.

“Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has attended four fires which it is suspected may have been caused by these lanterns, and organisations including the National Farmers’ Union and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have launched their own public awareness campaigns.

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“I know many people enjoy releasing these lanterns and the county council has no intention to try to enforce a ban – which wouldn’t be reasonable or workable – but I’d like people to be aware of the potential consequences of what seems on the face of it to be such an innocent act.”

The county council’s chief executive Phil Halsall wrote to James Paice MP, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, in October, after a meeting of the full council backed a motion calling for the Government to review their sale.

The lanterns, made of paper, wire and a block of solid fuel like a barbecue lighter, are widely sold for as little as £1 each and can travel for miles before falling back to earth.

Often found at family celebrations and music festivals, it is estimated their growing popularity now sees 200,000 released in the UK every year.

The NFU started a campaign when farmers began reporting incidents of cattle suffering illnesses or a painful death after swallowing sharp pieces of wire from lanterns which had been incorporated into bales of hay.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has also raised concerns as a result of people mistaking lanterns for distress flares or even reporting them as UFOs. Calls to the agency caused by flying lanterns are now in the hundreds every year.

And flying lanterns could be a distraction to pilots and a physical danger to low-flying aircraft according to the Civil Aviation Authority, which has called for nearby airfields to be informed before people set them off.