Call to restrict use of fireworks in Peterborough rejected

A call to restrict the use of fireworks to only be used at organised public displays has been turned down by members of Peterborough City Council.

Monday, 10th February 2020, 5:00 am

A motion brought by Cllr Christian Hogg (Lib Dem, Fletton and Stanground) - who is a dog owner and very concerned at the level of distress the use of fireworks has on his and other people’s pets – was narrowly defeated.

Speaking to members at the meeting of the Full Council on Wednesday, Cllr Hogg said: “The idea of restricting the use of fireworks to public displays only would massively lower the stress levels endured by animals throughout the year.

“Originally in this country we only used fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night in November, but now events throughout the year such as Chinese New Year, Eid, Diwali, New Year’s Eve and even at weddings and birthdays often mean fireworks are used as part of the celebrations.

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Calls to restrict the use of fireworks was reejected

“We can hear or see them going off and lighting up the sky at official events and I have no problem in principle with this provided we know in advance where and when these will be.

“My real concern is the use of fireworks in people’s back gardens in our neighbourhoods, fireworks that are completely unrestricted and unregulated in terms of their numbers, the size of the explosive effect and the times of day when they can be used.

“I don’t know how many of my fellow councillors have an animal, but if you’ve ever seen the distress that a dog or a cat or even a budgie goes through with incessant bangs and pops close to where they live, then you would feel as I do that this has to be controlled.

“The Government says they have very strict guidelines on the private use of fireworks, but I dispute this as do organisations like the RSPCA who have called upon councillors like myself to encourage councils to restrict this abuse.

“The RSPCA welcomed the Government’s Petitions Committee’s report released last November following its inquiry into the impact of fireworks on humans and animals.

“That report concluded that the existing law is inadequate and recommends that local authorities should be empowered to limit the number of displays in their areas through a system of permits, as well as fund an awareness campaign about the responsible use of fireworks.

“However, the RSPCA and I believe it could go a lot further with the public sale and use of fireworks limited to being closer to four specific celebration and festival dates (November 5, December 31, Chinese New Year and Diwali).

“They also recommend noise restrictions on the maximum level of decibels fireworks available to the public can reach and that public fireworks displays should be licensed and advertised in advance.

“Last year, the RSPCA received 411 calls from concerned animal lovers including alpacas, an African grey parrot, as well as dogs and horses, following the use of fireworks, and a total of 2,285 calls since 2014.

“I ask the council to seriously consider this motion and restrict the use of fireworks as advised.”

Cllr Irene Walsh, cabinet member for communities, said: “I cannot support this motion as this council has neither the power nor the resources to police such an idea.

“The use and abuse of fireworks, while regrettable to all animal lovers, is controlled by central government and there is no mechanism by which Peterborough City Council could restrict either the sale or private use of fireworks in the city.

“There was a similar motion put to this council by Cllr Ed Murphy in 2018, when we wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy who was at that time Greg Clark MP.

“The response we received was an understanding of the issues, but it was pointed out that the current legislation strikes the right balance between enjoyment by consumers and the limiting of anti-social use.

“Therefore, the Government had no plans to introduce any further restrictions in the foreseeable future and any future review of firework-related legislation would be undertaken by the Office of Public Safety and Standards.”

Leader of the council, Cllr John Holdich, added: “While we all appreciate the genuine feelings behind this motion, there’s nothing that this chamber can do without a change of legislation from central government.

“What I suggest we can do is to all get together in a cross-party meeting and see what could be done and then act upon that.”

Summing up, Cllr Hogg said: “I’m really disappointed that councillors have not seen fit to support this motion. I think anybody who loves animals and who has seen them suffer when fireworks are being abused would understand.

“Unfortunately, the Conservatives on the council have used this motion in a political manner and that was never my aim. It is regrettable, but I hear what Cllr Holdich has said and I will amend my motion and bring it to the table at a later meeting when hopefully we can get something passed.”

Councillors voted narrowly 28-25 to defeat the motion to restrict the use of fireworks.

Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service