RSPCA Cymru is celebrating as the final local authority to ban the release of deadly sky lanterns on their land approved restrictions on their use on Wednesday, effectively making Wales a no-fly zone for the devices on council land.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council unanimously approved plans to restrict sky lantern use on land controlled by the local authority in a vote.
The charity has long highlighted the dangers these devices pose to public safety and to animal welfare.
In 2013, the Welsh Government challenged councils across Wales to implement bans on their land – and RSPCA Cymru supporters have been contacting their local authority urging them to take action.
Twenty-one local authorities in Wales had already taken action – and Merthyr Tydfil CBC joined the list on Wednesday evening, as a meeting of full Council unanimously approved “a voluntary ban of the release of sky lanterns and balloons from Council owned land and property with immediate effect”.
In addition, Merthyr CBC also supported instructing all Councils tenants of the ban, which also extends to the sale of sky lanterns on local authority land.
RSPCA campaigns assistant Charlie Skinner said: “This has been long-fought and tireless campaign, and we’re delighted that Merthyr Council’s action means all 22 local authorities across the country have acted on the real danger posed by sky lanterns.
“Council land in Wales is now a no fly zone for sky lanterns.
“These devices can have deadly consequences for pets, farm and wild animals; and it’s huge step forward for animal welfare that these restrictions now exist in all corners of our nation.
“We’re so grateful to all of our supporters who have campaigned tirelessly on this topic. It’s a great example of what the RSPCA, our supporters and others can do when working together for the good of animals.
“In 2013, the Welsh Government wrote to local authorities in Wales urging them to implement a voluntary ban – and we’re now in a position, after tireless RSPCA campaigning, that all have taken action.”
Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services, Planning and Countryside, Councillor Howard Barrett, said: “I am pleased that as a Council, we have approved the ban of the release of sky lanterns and balloons in Merthyr Tydfil. The debris of sky lanterns and balloons present a significant risk to animals, crops, moorland, property and the natural environment. One of our environmental well-being objectives is that communities protect, enhance and promote our natural environment and countryside and the introduction of this ban most certainly supports this.”
Sky lanterns pose multiple dangers to animals – and can cause entanglement or entrapment. They can also be ingested; meaning sharp parts of the device can tear and puncture an animal’s throat or stomach causing horrific internal bleeding.
Lanterns also act as a dangerous fire hazard – destroying habitats, and potentially setting animal housing, feed and bedding alight. Marine life is also endangered by lanterns falling into the sea.
With all Councils now on board attention will swing to urging the Welsh Government to introduce a Wales-wide ban on private land, in addition to council land.
Mr Skinner added: “When the Welsh Government urged councils to bring in voluntary bans back in 2013, we took up the challenge and today marks a proud moment at the end of that journey. With local authorities across Wales making such a clear statement, following this RSPCA campaign, the ball is now back in the Welsh Government’s court.”
A number of organisations have joined the campaign against sky lanterns – including farming unions, conservation groups, and environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy.
Jemma Bere, Policy and Research Manager for Keep Wales Tidy said: “We’re delighted that every local authority in Wales has recognised the dangers of sky lanterns and introduced bans voluntarily.
“But there is more work to do if Wales is to become the first airborne litter free nation in the UK. At Keep Wales Tidy we also consider the intentional release of balloons as a form littering, and the impact can be just as far-reaching and long-lasting as sky lanterns.”
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