REDCAR and Cleveland Borough Council has made the decision to prohibit the sale and release of sky lanterns - and helium balloons - on council-owned land.

The use of snares to trap wild animals will be banned in the same way.

Following a farm fire caused by a drifting sky lantern close to Guisborough last year, Councillor Anne Watts brought a motion before full council in April. She said: “It was fortunate that several people were still attending to the horses in the nearby stables and were able to put out the subsequent fire... I dread to think what would have happened if nobody had been around at the time.

“I acknowledge that Chinese lanterns and balloons are often released in memory of a loved one, but it can be very dangerous to put a naked flame inside flimsy paper and send it off into the unknown, particularly in rural areas.”

Whilst there is an obvious fire risk associated with sky lanterns, helium balloon releases also present a danger to pets and wildlife. Entanglement in the balloons’ strings can cause injury and ingestion of the balloon material presents potentially fatal consequences, such as choking and internal organ damage.

Both items also create litter problems. Mylar, the material used to make foil balloons, and the metal cages of sky lanterns are not biodegradable. Even latex balloons, whilst biodegradable, take a prolonged time to break down.

Cllr Louise Westbury, with responsibility for Climate and Environment, said: “There is a range of issues associated with the use of sky lanterns and helium balloons: fire risk, litter, animal welfare and even instances where lanterns have been mistaken for flares by Coastal Rescue Services. This prohibition seeks to enhance the natural environment by reducing litter and managing risks to residents, local land, property and animals.

“Ultimately, what we hope for is a change to the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, which would see national legislation changed. At the very least, we hope to set an example by banning them from council-owned land, which will be managed through amendments to agreements regarding use of council land.”

Shortly before this motion was brought to council, written complaints from residents were received by Cllr Philip Thompson regarding the use of “cruel and barbaric snares” which “have no place in modern Britain”.

This complaint highlighted similar enforcement issues to those associated with sky lanterns and balloons. As a result of the motion, a report setting out various available options was prepared for the Council’s Cabinet, who made the decision to ban all these items from council land and for council leader, Mary Lanigan, to write to central Government, calling for national legislation against sky lanterns, helium balloons and snares generally.