Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Westminster should pass laws ensuring the noise levels of fireworks be reduced in future, according to a council report out this week.
The recommendations follow an inquiry into the anti-social use of fireworks by a panel of Leeds city councillors, which they claim can cause distress to vulnerable people, such as the elderly, or those with autism or health conditions.
The paper also recommended sales be restricted to certain retailers and targets adults who purchase fireworks for children.
It has also recommended the council do more to provide “diversionary activities for young people”, and to add extra conditions on licences for shops neat where fireworks are used antisocially.
The report had originally been put together in March this year, but faced repeated delays in being adopted by councillors due to complications around Covid-19.
Among those suggested changes were encouraging government to “strengthen national restrictions governing how, when and where fireworks can be purchased”, as well as “targeting proxy purchasing” of fireworks by adults on behalf of children.
“Noise pollution was considered a particular concern for vulnerable citizens, including veterans and those living in sheltered accommodation or with health conditions involving heightened sensory sensitivity such as autism or hyperacusis.
“It was agreed there would be value in national legislators exploring options to reduce the decibel level of fireworks – currently limited to 120 decibels for consumer fireworks – to reduce the distress caused by the noise of traditional fireworks.
“The industry response to previous proposals of this nature has been cautious with a suggestion that any substantial reduction in decibel limits could have an adverse impact on the marketplace, potentially leading to the illegal importation of more noisy and dangerous fireworks.”
On suggestions of what the council can do, it added that targeting social media platforms to warn about consequences of firework misuse, and identifying diversionary activities for young people should be prioritised. It added:
“Diversionary activities for young people have proved to be a particularly effective way of reducing anti-social behaviour linked to peak periods of firework related disorder. In the last year this included the provision of safe spaces for young people in an evening, boxing sessions and activities run in coordination with local sports teams.
“Officers and partners highlighted the importance of engaging with young people well in advance of predicted peaks in firework related disorder and doing so, where possible, through trusted contacts who already have established relationships with young people.”
Chair of the committee Coun Barry Anderson (Con) said:
“While some instances of this behaviour are clear cases of disorder, we also considered the impact of the increasingly frequent use of private fireworks for events and celebrations.
“We heard about noise pollution affecting people with whose health conditions include sensory sensitivities, sheltered communities and veterans with PTSD. We also discussed the concerns of pet owners, those with livestock and the impact on wildlife.
“The Board listened to evidence from front-line workers who had come under attack from fireworks used as missiles and we explored the increasing pressure on public sector organisations to respond to predictable peaks of firework related anti-social behaviour.
“It should be said that throughout this inquiry board members have been mindful of the fact that the majority of people in Leeds enjoy the safe, responsible use of fireworks, often as part of public – though not necessarily professional – displays. These displays have not fallen within the remit of this inquiry.”
He added that many of the solutions require “national legislative change”, and that Government should look into “a series of changes to existing legislation” to help prevent and respond to firework-related anti-social behaviour.
The report will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s environment, housing and communities scrutiny board on Thursday, October 21.