COUNCIL chiefs in Worcester want to BAN the release of outdoor balloons and sky lanterns, slapping people with fines for “littering”.

Worcester City Council’s new Labour leadership says it wants to help protect the environment by effectively outlawing it under a hard-hitting new policy.

Under the move, any outdoor balloon and sky lantern releases would be banned from all council sites, while on private land government powers could see culprits fined £70 or even prosecuted in court.

In recent years, increasing numbers of large-scale balloon releases have taken place across the city including schools, fundraising bashes, summer events, community celebrations and get-togethers to celebrate the lives of dead people.

The city’s leadership says the move is backed by the likes of the RSPCA and the Marine Conservation Society due to the damage it can wreak on the planet.

But the idea has received a mixed reaction in the city, with some people suggesting it could go too far.

St Clement Primary School in Henwick Road, St John’s, did a large balloon release event when it helped form into a new multi-academy trust.

Headteacher Jackie Castle said: “We fully concur with concerns around the environment and litter, but it’s also a very fun and enjoyable experience for the pupils.

“But if it was illegal, we wouldn’t do it.”

Adrian Field, from Worcester’s Business Improvement District (BID), said retailers would be relaxed about it.

“It’s more an issue for the wider community than retailers,” he said.

“Shop owners are not going to be jumping up and down about it.”

A new council report, published for the Labour cabinet, says: “Outdoor balloon and sky lantern releases have become a traditional and common event at summer fairs, fundraising events, opening of new stores or part of commemorative occasions.

“It is less well known what happens to the balloons once they are released, and the potentially harmful consequences for wildlife and property that can occur as a result of this celebration.”

If outdoor releases take place on private land, the council could use powers under the Environmental Protection Act and Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act to punish people.

The policy says bosses would “consider the release of balloons and lanterns from any land or buildings as littering”, although they insist it would be used flexibly.

Labour Councillor Jabba Riaz, the cabinet member for clean, green and leisure services, said: “It’s 100 per cent based on environmental reasons - the impact of balloons and sky lanterns can cause devastation to animals and create fire risks.

“This will be a common sense approach, we won’t go in with a heavy-handed mob to kid’s birthday parties if they release five or six balloons.

“Some of those sky lanterns have caused huge fires in the West Midlands, and balloons can get into the sewage and cause blockages too - the environmental case for this is a no-brainer.”

The policy will not apply to hot air balloons, and is expected to be agreed in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.