THE release of sky lanterns and helium balloons has now been banned from North Ayrshire Council owned land.

It comes after councillors agreed unanimously to the decision, at a full council meeting last week, amid concerns about animal welfare.

They become the latest authority to give its support to Animal Concern’s campaign to ban the controversial objects.

The proposal was put forward by SNP councillor Jean McClung, who spoke out briefly against the airborne objects at a council meeting.

North Ayrshire, in passing the motion, joined approximately two thirds of Scottish local authorities to have introduced restrictions of some kind on the release of lanterns and helium balloons so far.

Cllr McClung said: “The release of helium balloons and sky lanterns has increased in recent years, and both can cause significant harm to the environment, animals and livestock in particular.

“Sky lanterns can cause considerable fire risk, particularly during dry spells. They also pose a threat to animals, as they can cause injury, suffering, and death, through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment.

“When eaten, the sharp parts of a Chinese Lantern can tear and puncture an animal’s throat or stomach, causing internal bleeding.

“Likewise, helium balloons, when they land, become a danger to any wildlife, farmed animals or companion animals that may happen to find them before this debris is removed.

“If ingested, the balloon can do irreparable, often fatal, damage to an animal’s oesophagus and digestive tract and can cause suffocation.”

Kilwinning Labour councillor Donald Reid, who seconded the motion, said: “Sky lanterns were not perhaps seen as litter a few years ago but the damage they were doing to livestock was just like someone who throws a bag of rubbish out the car window onto the road is doing to livestock.

“We have to get rid of helium balloons as part of the littering and the damage it is doing to livestock and there is a fire risk with regard to sky lanterns.

"I am fully supportive of the fire service who are looking to reduce the risk when we are seeing an increase in wildfires largely caused by people involved in this kind of activity.”

Scottish charity, Animal Concern, have launched a campaign seeking support from Scottish local authorities to reduce the harm caused by these balloons and lanterns by placing restrictions on the release of sky lanterns and balloons on council-owned land and property. 

Sky lanterns are made from a bamboo frame and wire. Should they be damaged on landing, if ingested, they can perforate flesh or internal organs leading to organ failure or internal bleeding. Both are likely to be fatal if untreated. 

Animal Concern campaigns officer Graeme Corbett has welcomed the news.

He said: “I’m delighted this has not only passed but passed unanimously. 

“We might just be a nation of animal lovers after all. It shows this issue cuts across party lines. North Ayrshire has shown fantastic leadership.

“These measures don’t just safeguard animal welfare on land and at sea in North Ayrshire but help conserve and protect its environment, its beaches and islands too. 

"We hope the Scottish and UK governments are watching, they can’t keep hiding behind local authorities like this.”