THE use of sky lanterns and helium balloons may be banned on council property.

West Dorset District Council has passed a notice of motion proposing that releases of sky lanterns and helium balloons should not be permitted from land owned by the council.

The motion at the full council meeting also proposed that such releases should not be permitted at any events licensed by the council.

It comes as part of a campaign to stop people using sky lanterns and helium balloons, which has been backed nationally by organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society.

The motion was put forward by Cllr Dave Rickard, a former marine biologist, who gave an impassioned speech on the damaging effects the lanterns and balloons have on wildlife and the environment.

He said: “Over many years, many organisations have drawn attention to the problems of sky lantern and balloon releases, which end up as litter on land and in the sea, and pose a risk to livestock and marine animals, who mistake the balloons in particular for food.

“Balloons have been found ingested in endangered turtles, dolphins, whales and sea birds, and livestock have died after eating degraded lanterns which are accidentally picked up by harvesting machinery and put in feeds.”

He added that the lanterns pose a fire risk to crops in the summer months, and to thatched houses, with the lanterns also causing false alarm call-outs on the coast, as people mistake their flames for distress flares.

Due to a successful amendment put forward by Tory council leader, Cllr Anthony Alford, the policy will first be looked at by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee for further consideration.

Cllr Alford said that the dangers of sky lanterns and balloons had received a lot of publicity in recent years.

After the full council meeting, Cllr Rickard said: “I had not foreseen that, but it will be useful because it will enable us to look at how to enforce the ban – dot the I’s and cross the T’s.”

Cllr Rickard is on the scrutiny committee himself, and he added that the chairman of the scrutiny committee, Cllr Daryl Turner, was keen to have the proposal considered and put through.

After the amended motion was passed, vice-chairman of the council, Cllr Jean Dunseith, expressed her support for the proposal.

She said: “I’ve read in the newspapers that they have killed livestock and set thatched cottages on fire, so well done for raising that Cllr Rickard.”

Bridport Town Council has already made plans to stop people launching sky lanterns and helium balloons on its land on the basis that the objects create litter and endanger wildlife.