Sky Lanterns - Jim Paice says discourage them - CLA says ban them.
Essex wedding venue operator, Duncan Clark, is already operating a ban on Chinese lanterns at the popular Braxted Park, Witham, well in advance of a letter to the British Hospitality Association from farming minister, James Paice.
Mr Paice has written to the association asking it to advise its membership of hotels, restaurants and other venues of the problems the lanterns cause* and to ask that they discourage customers from using them. But land managers say the dangers are so high that only a ban will be sufficient protection.
Mr Clark agrees. "Years ago when I saw the first lanterns were let off here I realised the danger and banned them on the spot," said Mr Clark. "It was clear they posed a danger to my neighbours and when the first one landed on the roof of the main house at Braxted it was very clear what we needed to do.
"It is common-sense. When I explain to my customers why we have the ban they understand, and I haven't lost any bookings because of it.
"Lanterns are only a recent fashion - you can still have a very good time without them."
Mr Clark, who is a CLA Essex member, is endorsing the organisation's call for an outright ban as the only way to offer sufficient protection to the countryside, livestock and property.
"We are of course delighted that Mr Paice has understood the problem and made this move," says CLA East regional director Nicola Currie. "But sadly that depends upon everyone acting responsibly and there is no guarantee that they will. When revellers are having a good time they may not necessarily pause to think whether or not the conditions and locations are suitable.
"We don't want to spoil anybody's party but we do have to try to protect the countryside and crops from fire – and animals from a very painful death."
Mr Paice's letter comes as the region's crops and wildlife habitats, parched and dry because of months of drought, have become vulnerable to fire. "Though there has been some rain, there has been nowhere near enough and it would take very little to set them flaming," says Mrs Currie. "Yields are going to be low anyway and we cannot afford to lose this vital food production, especially when it can be avoided.
"Neither can we afford to lose precious natural habitats and the wildlife it contains."
CLA East is also worried over the danger to livestock posed by the lanterns' frames. Some may well be caught up in bales of hay and silage and will inadvertently be swallowed by cattle. Frames lying seemingly innocuously in pasture are also a threat because cattle - ever-curious – will lick and chew them, with disastrous results.
"I am sure that party-goers would understand the need to ban when they realise what the consequences of their fun could be," says Mrs Currie.
Editors note: * See Defra website, news. Jim Paice: skylanterns are causing problems in the countryside.
For further information and interview:
Duncan Clark, Braxted 01621 892305 or 07740 449355
Sally Smith, CLA PR 01553 764422 or 07729 448046
Nicola Currie, regional director CLA 01284 789201 or 07702 928870
As a membership organisation, the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) supports landowners and rural businesses and communities, assessing and commenting upon national and regional policy and lobbying government on their behalf. There is a team of experts in London and a regional structure able to give local support. The CLA has been looking after the interests of its members, as well as promoting the positive aspects of land ownership and land management, for over 100 years.
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Nicola has a Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Farm Management from the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) and seven years experience as a Tenant Farmer, building up a pedigree dairy herd from scratch. She has also spent time in professional practice in Estate and Farm Management. This background has provided Nicola with a useful grounding to work for the interests of the CLA East region’s farming and rural businesses.
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