DEFIANT council chiefs have insisted they have not banned balloons from the city despite new rules being introduced for all council-owned land and property.
Members of Worcester City Council’s cabinet unanimously voted in favour of the ban on the release of balloons and sky lanterns at a meeting last Tuesday (June 14).
Council chiefs hope it will reduce the dangers balloons and sky lanterns have on wildlife and avoid their potential risk as a fire hazard.
It now means anyone caught releasing balloons or sky lanterns from council-owned land or buildings in the city could be hit with an £80 fine for littering.
Council chiefs have defended the ban by saying the latex balloons and sky lanterns can be mistaken for food and accidentally eaten by animals which could cause them to starve as the balloons block their digestive systems.
Coun Jabba Riaz, cabinet member for Cleaner, Greener and Leisure Services, said: “The policy brings together a joint approach and seeks to ban all releases of balloons and Chinese lanterns from council property and land.
“We are not banning balloons from the city.
“We do recognise the damage to the environment and wildlife that litter from uncontrolled releases of balloons or sky lanterns causes.
“Sky lanterns in particular have been proven to be a cause of serious fires.
“Many other local authorities have adopted similar practices and policies, including Worcestershire County Council and this are approach is also supported by the RSPCA, the National Farmers Union and the Marine Conservation Society.
“We are therefore banning releases from council land and buildings. Enforcement will be carried out by city council officers and appropriate and proportionate action will be taken.”
Responding to the ban, Conservative councillor Lucy Hodgson claimed the Labour administration was using a ‘sledgehammer to get rid of a fairly small problem.’
“Whilst I understand the harm that these sky lanterns can cause and I completely accept that there needs to be some restriction with those,” Coun Hodgson said.
“But I have a real issue over normal balloons and helium balloons and I’m also really concerned about how the city council is actually going to be monitoring this and enforcing it.
“I have a real worry about how it will appear in the paper when we perhaps fine an individual or a charity that has inadvertently released some balloons.
“This is a sledgehammer to get rid of a fairly small problem, not a major problem, and I think we’re being too autocratic in this,” she added.
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