Agenda item

Notices of Motion


Motion A : Proposed by Councillor Horwood, seconded by Councillor Harvey

This Council:
Welcomes the celebration of Bonfire Night, New Year's Eve, Diwali, Eid, Chinese New Year and other festivals and celebrations at which fireworks are traditional.

Nevertheless notes that the noise from modern consumer fireworks can legally reach 120 decibels and that professional displays can exceed 150 decibels, both far above the threshold for possible permanent human hearing loss of 85db, causing distress to household pets, horses, birds and other animals and potentially discomforting and distressing people with PTSD, auditory and other conditions

Further notes the RSPCA campaign 'Bang Out Of Order' and the concerns regularly expressed by the RSPCA, British Horse Society, RNID and many local residents, as well as hundreds of thousands of signatories to parliamentary petitions

Further notes the potential negative impact of plastic and other non-biodegradable firework debris on wildlife and the environment

Notes the current law which forbids the setting off of fireworks between 11pm and 7am on most nights of the year and forbids the sale of any fireworks to under 18s but otherwise offers few powers to the Police or local councils to mitigate the impact of the noisiest and most environmentally harmful fireworks

Is disappointed in the government response to fireworks petitions and campaigns to date have focussed on little more than raising public awareness

Therefore asks Cabinet to urge government to again review the current law with a view to banning or more seriously restricting fireworks causing noise in excess of 90db, and imposing a ban on non-biodegradable components, and to report back to Council on the government’s response


Further asks Cabinet to explore with local partners such as the BID and Chamber of Commerce the feasibility of a scheme to encourage the sale and purchase of quieter and more environmentally friendly fireworks for private use in Cheltenham, and the advance advertisement of public displays and to report back to Council.


In proposing the motion, Councillor Horwood stated he enjoyed fireworks, but felt there was no reason for households or small public displays to be letting off very loud fireworks, which had a detrimental impact on wildlife and pets, including horses, as well as people with some medical disorders.  He pointed out that the noise limit in the UK was much louder than in other countries, being 120 decibels which is very loud as permanent hearing damage can occur at 85 decibels.


He continued that there were very few powers that a local council had to be able to do anything about fireworks and as  many councillors received complaints, a change in the law was needed. He proposed it was necessary to urge the government to ban non-biodegradable elements in fireworks and to impose a decibel level along the lines suggested by the RSPCA of 90 decibels.


He also proposed looking  into the feasibility of a local scheme, together with the BID and Chamber of Commerce, to encourage the purchase of quieter and more environmentally friendly fireworks.   He felt these would be positive steps and commended the motion to council.


Several Members spoke in support of the motion, and the following points were made:

·         Concern was expressed about the practicalities of enforcement if there was a change in legislation, especially if it was an informal display or a display just outside borough boundaries.  It was already difficult to enforce as it was often difficult to identify the source of the firework.

·         A Member referred to the  RSPCA campaign which suggested councils could do things but in fact councils didn’t have the legal powers to do much and this wasn’t helpful.

·         It was proposed to lobby and work with the LGA as Cheltenham wouldn’t be the only council experiencing these problems.

·         It was pointed out that fireworks are covered by the explosive acts so this was an even better reason for them to be regulated by government, and that they should not be sold without regulations.  However, too many regulations could lead to more being sold on the black market and must ensure imported fireworks meet the relevant safety requirements as there is no control over who buys fireworks.

·         Several Members were concerned about the danger and trauma to livestock, wildlife and pets that loud fireworks produced.

·         One Member felt strongly that the sale of fireworks should be banned to all, other than to organisers of licensed displays and responsible bodies.

·         Many agreed with a lower decibel level, however one Member expressed concern that reducing the level to 90 decibels could be slightly on the low side for a proper display and didn’t want to deprive future generations of the pleasures of firework displays.   However it was pointed out that some large scale displays, such as in Cheltenham’s twin town of Annecy, were beautiful but not overly noisy.

·         Members supported working with the BID and Chamber of Commerce and not only by encouraging the use of lower decibel fireworks but also the length of time residents were exposed to excessive noise from firework displays. 

·         Public recognition that local councils did not have the power to do much but  that they were working together with partners to try and reduce the nuisance factor was encouraged.

·         Members felt this was a good start but more needed to be done.


Cllr Harvey wished to second and support the motion and stressed the motion was not about banning fireworks, as a large organised display was very different to ones that go off in a neighbouring garden.  The first step was to try and reduce the noise of the fireworks and he acknowledged how distressing loud noises were not only to pets and wildlife but also to people suffering from PTSD and other disorders whereby loud noises affected them.  He suggested that national guidance and legislation was needed so that neighbouring areas would have the same regulations.


In summing up, Councillor Horwood thanked Members for their contributions.  He acknowledged that enforcement was a difficult issue especially when fireworks were set off privately, but he said the motion was not to ban the private purchase of fireworks but more to encourage the public to be more responsible and set off fireworks safely and quietly.  In this respect the focus was to urge the government to regulate noise level at manufacture, to reduce the noise level to 90 decibels and to improve their environmental suitability.  Councillor Horwood was grateful for Members comments and support.


Upon a vote the motion was carried.

Supporting documents: