What goes up must come down
There is widespread agreement that Chinese sky lanterns and the countryside simply don't get on.
The Western Daily Press has chronicled far too many incidents in which these breeze-guided incendiary bombs have caused fear, alarm and damage. The evidence against them is thoroughly compelling and yet, as we report today, the Government still seems unable to do the right thing and rid the skies of them.
Remember when, in July this year, there were calls from fire officers and MPs for a wholesale ban on the paper lanterns after one was blamed for causing a blaze which sent up 100,000 tonnes of plastic in flames at a recycling centre near Birmingham. That incident occupied – and imperilled – 200 firefighters in a dangerous situation that clearly could so easily have been avoided. Remember also retired social worker Shirley Pankhurst, who launched a campaign to rid the skies above the Cotswolds of the flaming lanterns. Mrs Pankhurst was driven to protest when she saw them on sale for 99p in Stroud.
Ask any farmer and he will tell you exactly how dangerous these lanterns can be.
They can harm or kill farm animals that ingest the lanterns' wire frames – hidden in chopped grass and baled silage – and there is also the obvious fire risk to standing and stored crops and to buildings.
Releasing these lanterns is just anonymous littering at best – escalating to the potential for arson or even manslaughter in the worst case scenario.
The only difference is that in the event of a tragedy, there is little hope of finding whoever is responsible. Surely there are better ways of celebrating happy events or marking a memory than buying a flimsy piece of tat, setting it alight and immediately throwing it away.
Sadly, while our political masters can find a hundred and one ways to meddle without good reason in our lives, when an opportunity arises for swift, decisive action on an issue where there is approaching universal agreement, they find themselves paralysed, unable to act.
So, if ministers cannot see the need to legislate – or summon the courage to – then we would join the National Farmers Union, the Country Land & Business Association, the Women's Food and Farming Union and the Marine Conservation Society in urging people to stop buying Chinese lanterns. Sorted.