Time to ban Chinese lanterns?

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calls for a Government review into the sale of Chinese lanterns have won the backing of Lancashire County Council.

A notice of motion backing farmers’ groups, fire services and the coastguard in urging the Government to examine the issue received all-party support at a meeting of the Full Council.

County Councillor Malcolm Barron, who represents rural West Lancashire North, presented the motion. He said: “These flying lanterns were first brought to my attention by a resident whose wife runs a riding school where some straw in the stable yard caught fire when one of these lanterns landed.

“Fortunately there were people on hand to put out the blaze, but the consequences could have been very serious!

“I’ve also been told by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service that they’ve attended four incidents and received reports of another four fires caused by these flying lanterns.”

The county council is to write to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, adding its voice to concerns already raised by the National Farmers’ Union, the Coastguard and fire services across the country.

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 many miles before falling back to earth. Popular at family celebrations and music festivals, it is estimated that their growing popularity now sees around 200,000 released in the UK every year.

Farmers have reported incidents of cattle suffering a painful death after swallowing sharp pieces of wire from lanterns which have landed in meadows and been incorporated into bales of hay.

Calls to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency are now in the hundreds every year, as people mistake them for distress flares or even report them as UFOs.

County Councillor Barron added: “These lanterns can be very pretty, but there’s already too high a price being paid by farmers, both in terms of cost and the suffering caused to their livestock.

“As a county with an important rural economy it’s vital that Lancashire’s voice is foremost in raising these concerns. We want the Government to look more closely at this issue as these lanterns are clearly causing a financial drain on public services and the rural economy.

“You can buy these lanterns for just a pound in Lancashire, but now is the time to find out their true cost to the country and take steps to regulate their sale.”