More than 50,000 members of the public have backed the NFU’s calls for a total ban on sky lanterns in England and Wales, signing a petition calling on the Government to follow the lead of hundreds of local councils and introduce a ban.
As the weather continues to remain extremely dry, the threat of fires posed by sky lanterns landing in fields of crops or grassland has been brought into sharp focus. The lanterns also pose a threat to animals and buildings. The petition, which was launched in May, is supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), RSPCA and Keep Britain Tidy.
The NFU has been campaigning for a number of years to introduce a ban and so far, has succeeded in encouraging 185 councils out of 333 across England and Wales to voluntarily ban sky lanterns. This covers land owned by these councils, and more can be done by the Government to take action.
NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: “This huge amount of public support demonstrates the urgent need for a ban on sky lanterns.
“As we continue to experience very dry weather in many places, alongside some of the highest temperatures on record over the past few weeks, this has increased the risk of fires being started by items like sky lanterns. Even in the past week, there have been reports of some farmers finding released sky lanterns on their farms, which is unbelievable when you think of the fires these could have started. At this time of year in particular, a fire caused by a sky lantern would be devastating to crops, as well as buildings and machinery, and pose a risk to life.
“Now is the time for Defra to take action. There are around 200,000 sky lanterns released in the UK each year and while the possibility of fire is great in the summer months, they can also harm animals and wildlife all year round. If an animal eats a fallen lantern it could lead to horrible injuries or even death.
“Countries around the world including Germany, Austria and Brazil all understand the risk of sky lanterns and have implemented a ban on them. We urge the Government to follow in their footsteps and create a safe, cleaner, greener countryside, by introducing a total ban on sky lanterns.”
NFCC Wildfire Lead Paul Hedley said: “The NFCC does not advocate the use of sky lanterns under any circumstances, at any time. We have seen devastating fires caused by these lanterns, as well as posing a risk to wildlife and property.
“Fires caused by a sky lantern are likely to be complex and large-scale incidents, putting huge pressure on fire services. The current conditions across the country means there is a higher risk of wildfires than usual in many parts of the country; just one sky lantern fire could cause untold damage, while posing a threat to lives.”