When they land they they often start fires

Chinese Lanterns
Chinese Lanterns

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CHINESE lanterns could be banned amid claims they are a fire hazard that can harm animals and pose a danger to aircraft.

Hampshire County Council is to stop all sales of the wire and paper flying lamps at authority-run events.

And it is to write to the government to call for the lanterns, described as ‘monstrous’ by one councillor, banned from sale nationwide.

Tory Councillor Carol Leversha requested the council take action against their use.

She said: ‘They can remain in the air for 20 minutes, and can reach up to a mile in height, so they travel very long distances. But when they land, often still alight, they set fire to things.

‘In one incident one landed in a horse stables, and bounced around. If people hadn’t been there to extinguish it, the horses would have been burned to death. In another, recently, a lantern fell on a thatched roof, causing a family to have to escape. They’re monstrous and they really need to be banned.’

The lanterns, which cost around £2 each, contain a small flammable fuel cell, which provides the hot air to make them float.

They were originally a Chinese invention, but have become popular in recent years, particularly at summer evening events, where crowds gather to watch the glowing lamps float into the sky.

No incidents of fire caused by a lantern have been reported within Hampshire.

But Cllr Leversha said: ‘The wire in them is eaten by cattle, and cuts them open from the inside, causing infection and often death, and they are a danger to aircraft because of the heights and distances they can reach.

‘The coastguard, National Farmers’ Union, RNLI and Fire and Rescue services have all expressed concerns or asked for an outright ban. In Germany, many states have banned them already. They are dangerous and we should do the same.’

The council voted unanimously on Thursday afternoon to ask the government for a nationwide sales ban.

And though its Trading Standards team can’t ban sales from shops in the county without legal support from Whitehall, it has pledged to stop the lanterns’ use at its own events, and those run by district councils.

Gosport Lib Dem Cllr Peter Chegwyn said: ‘This is a good idea. We can get the district councils to ban them from their events, too.

‘They’re often sold on site, and we can just ask them to add a condition of licensing an event that says no lanterns can be used or sold on site at any of their own, or privately-run, activities. It’ll cost very little, and improve safety.’

Cllr Chegwyn’s suggestion also won unanimous approval at the council meeting.

But Portsmouth City Council will not ban the lanterns.

Its leader for the environment, Cllr Eleanor Scott, said: ‘No, we have no plans in place to ban them, and we’re not looking into doing so.’