Buxton Raceway cancels controversial sky lantern event

Thousands of people signed a petition calling on the event to be cancelled.
Thousands of people signed a petition calling on the event to be cancelled.

A sky lantern event due to take place at Buxton Raceway later this month is to be cancelled, the venue has confirmed.

Lights Fest is scheduled to take place at the Dale Head Road raceway on Saturday July 28, but the current dry and hot weather and ongoing moorland fires have prompted calls for the event to be scrapped.

In a post on social media on Thursday evening, Buxton Raceway promoter Matthew Watson said: "In view of the current moorland fires in Derbyshire, Lancashire and Staffordshire I thought it highly appropriate to seek advice regarding the staging of the lantern festival scheduled for July 28.

"Taking the advice from the local fire/police department alongside our own concern, I have taken the stance to cancel the event."

High Peak MP Ruth George, who led calls for the event to be cancelled, welcomed the announcement in a post on Facebook: "Delighted to hear that Buxton Raceway has cancelled the Buxton LightsFest on the advice of local fire and police - and their own concerns given the current moorland fires. Thank you!"

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: “We welcome the decision by Buxton Raceway to cancel the Manchester/Birmingham Lights Fest at Buxton on the doorstep of the Peak District National Park, which would have put our valuable landscapes, wildlife and farming livelihoods at risk. We now look forward to further official confirmation from the organisers.

“I share the public’s frustration that the organisers did not consider the impacts of sky lanterns before planning this event so close to the UK’s first national park, and not least in light of recent wild fire incidents.

“Our view remains that the use of sky lanterns should be formally recognised as littering, and therefore subject to the same laws.

“I would like to thank the public, Ruth George MP and the fire service for joining us in support of stopping this completely avoidable risk to our national park.”

More than 9,000 people have signed a petition at Change.org calling for the event to not go ahead due to fears over the potential impact to the countryside and wildlife.

Mrs George said previously: “I am particularly concerned this is happening when we have had a period of effective drought when fire risks are especially high, and in the heart of the Peak District, which is environmentally sensitive, adjacent to large areas of the national park and rich in wildlife."

Terry McDermott, Chief Fire Officer for Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We will be strongly advising against this event. There are many risks, especially since we have a dry weather forecast.”

The Derbyshire Events Safety Advisory Group, made up of representatives from the emergency services, the county and borough councils, adjacent land owners, Natural England, the Peak District National Park Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority, also expressed concern.

The organisers of Lights Fest, who are based in the US and run lantern events around the globe, have not commented on the announcement by Buxton Raceway.

Highlighting their ‘perfect safety record’, they have said previously: “The rice-paper body of the lantern is fire-resistant to prevent the flame from travelling.

“We have designed the fuel source in such a way that the flame is completely out before the lanterns descend and land. Regardless, we always have a fire crew waiting in the landing zone as a precaution.”