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Balloons and sky lanterns

In September 2022 we banned the use, sale, distribution and mass release of balloons and sky lanterns at all Council events, and on all Council owned, operated and controlled land. And are encouraging alternative fund raising, promotional, memorial or celebratory activities.

What is prohibited?

  • The motion covers all types of balloon and sky lanterns and includes single or multiple balloon and/or sky lantern releases
  • All balloons, described as inflatable flexible bag filled with gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, oxygen or hot air made from materials such as rubber, latex, natural latex, paper, polychloroprene, foil, mylar or a nylon fabric.
  • All sky lanterns (sometimes known as Chinese or Floating Lanterns) which are made of thin paper held by a wire or bamboo frame and lifted by heat from a naked flame
  • Distribution or sale of balloons and sky lanterns at council events or on council owned land
  • Stalls / individuals selling balloons will not be allowed at Council events, or at events hosted by third parties on Council land. 
  • Balloon modelers will not be allowed at Council events, or at events hosted by third parties on Council land or in Council buildings.   
  • Residents / charities / organisations asking to host balloon / Chinese lantern releases will be refused regardless of the purpose(s).

What is allowed?

  • Hot air balloons are not included but will still need permission to use our land unless in an emergency situation
  • The release of weather balloons for scientific research are not included but will need permission to be released from our land.
  • Families with young children with a single balloon securely tied to them or an item in their possession obviously passing through our land on their way to or from another event / activity.
  • Instances of accidental release of balloons, as a result of the above.

How will this ban be regulated?

  • Requests to hold events / activities on our land that include balloons and / or sky lanterns will be politely refused unless alternatives can be found (see some suggestions below).
  • User agreements / licences / terms of agreement will be updated
  • Council representatives on Event Planning and Safety Advisory Group panels will enforce this motion on Council land and discourage the release of balloons and sky lanterns on non-South Ribble Borough Council land.
  • Anyone seen with large numbers of balloons / sky lanterns on Council land will politely be asked to leave and dispose of their balloons responsibly rather than releasing them.
  • Consideration of the potential to instigate enforcement action against any person responsible for creating litter by releasing or allowing the release of balloons or sky lanterns under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
  • We will encourage other landowners, parish and town councils, schools, individuals and event organisers to consider doing the same.


The Marine Conservation Society have produced a booklet explaining the problem and offering environmentally friendly alternatives to mass balloon releases.

These include:

Alternatives at events

  • Colourful streamers, flags, banners and other signs can save you money and time instead of using balloons, string, helium and lanterns.
  • Virtual balloons and races - The RSPB have launched a new virtual balloon race where you can design and personalise your balloon and then track it on Google maps.
  • Flags, banners, pop ups, bunting
  • Fly kites or garden spinners
  • Fly windsocks
  • LED / solar lights

Alternatives at memorials

  • Plant a tree or native plant
  • Blow bubbles
  • Create a memorial garden
  • Sponsor a bench, tree

This set of guidance notes will be monitored and reviews in light of other Council policies and changing legislation as required.

The threat to the environment and wildlife

Although balloons and sky lanterns released into the sky can look impressive, it is impossible to predict and control where released lanterns or balloons will land when they come back down and the effects on animals and the environment can be hazardous, even fatal.  It is because of this that the motion was put to and carried through full council.

Balloon litter can be harmful to marine and terrestrial wildlife, sometimes resulting in death by strangulation or choking. Balloons have been found in the stomach of many species such as dolphins, whales, turtles and sea birds.  The strings attached to the balloons pose a separate risk to a wider range of wildlife, that become entangled in the strings.

Even balloons marketed as 'biodegradable' can last for up to four years in marine ecosystems, therefore the ban also includes biodegradable balloons

Sky lanterns, made from paper-covered wire or a bamboo frame with a candle inside, lift into the air where they can float for miles, not only causing a fire hazard to crops, thatched roof properties and in dry conditions, parks, gardens and allotments, but potentially destroying habitats when they come back down to land.

In addition, balloons and sky lanterns pose a danger to aircraft safety as they may be drawn into aircraft engines or be a distraction to pilots. 

Rescue services have been called out to lanterns that have been mistaken for distress flares, wasting their time and putting other peoples lives at risk. 

Motion to Full Council

This ban came after a motion was put to and accepted by Full Council to recognise the harmful effects that balloons and sky lanterns have on the environment as a result of a letter received from a Year 4 pupil in Northbrook Primary Academy in July 2022 (see letter below). The letter asked the Council to sign up to the Marine Conservation Society 'Don't Let Go' campaign, followed by pupils attending the Council meeting on 21 September 2022 to present their case.

Letter received from a Year 4 pupil in Northbrook Primary Academy

Dear Mr Titherington,

I am writing to you today to plead with you to help us on our quest to stop mass balloon releases and support the 'Don't Let Go' campaign. 
People cleaning up beaches have found balloons every 100 metres, which is very harmful to our lovely, beautiful Earth we call home.  Even biodegradable balloons take 4 years to disintegrate.  What happens is the innocent, defenceless animals swim about looking for a snack and think the balloons are jellyfish.  Meanwhile, the string wraps itself around the poor creature, cutting in to its skin.

The mere fact that South Ribble is not on the list of councils that have signed up to 'Don't Let Go' saddens and disappoints me. Instead of mass balloon releases people could have flower confetti or plant a tree, which would be environmentally-friendly.  It is up to you.  Do you think a few seconds of prettiness is worth millions of marine animals being killed worldwide?

Yours sincerely,


Year 4, Northbrook Primary Academy

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