Emergency services welcome decision to cancel Buxton sky lantern event over fire risk

Buxton Raceway was due to host the sky lantern event.
Buxton Raceway was due to host the sky lantern event.

The police and fire service have welcomed a decision to cancel a sky lantern event planned to take place in Buxton at the end of the month.

Buxton Raceway was due to host Lights Fest on Saturday July 28, but the Dale Head Road venue confirmed it will now not go ahead after concerns were raised about the fire risk it posed due to the current dry and hot weather and ongoing moorland blazes.

In a post on social media on Thursday evening, Buxton Raceway promoter Matthew Watson said he had "taken the stance to cancel the event".

The Derbyshire Events Safety Advisory Group - made up of a number of organisations including Derbyshire police, the fire and rescue service, and local authorities - had been in contact with the event organisers and the owners of Buxton Raceway.

Sergeant Darren Belfield said: “Our concern with this event was that potentially thousands of the paper lanterns could have carried naked flames across the Peak District, with no way of knowing where they would land.

“At the very base level, the countryside could have become littered with the remnants of these lanterns. But they also pose a real risk to wildlife and property, and could start fires in a countryside that is already extremely dry due to the hot weather.

“The devastation caused with the recent moorland fires shows just how serious fires in the open can be and how quickly they can spread.

“We felt this event would have posed an unnecessary risk of fire and so, together with our partner agencies, we looked at ways that we could stop the event from taking place.

“I’m pleased the Buxton Raceway management has taken our concerns and advice on board and decided to cancel the event themselves.”

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service group manager, Steve Wells, said: “We’ve done a lot of prevention work throughout this dry spell and on the back of the moorland fires we are still dealing with to try and reduce the numbers of fires in the open happening.

“The increase in outdoor fires we’ve attended over the last couple of weeks and the scale of the ongoing moorland fires highlights just how easily fire can start and spread while everything is so dry.

“With this in mind, the idea of lighting and releasing fire lanterns on tinder dry moorland is extremely reckless, so it’s great news that this has been cancelled.”

The organisers of Lights Fest, US-based Viive Events, who run lantern events around the globe, have yet to comment on the decision by Buxton Raceway to cancel the event.

High Peak MP Ruth George, who had led calls for the event to be cancelled, said she was "delighted" with the announcement.

But she added: "I am appalled that the American company Viive Events refused to cancel themselves in spite of the outright opposition from Derbyshire Fire Service of which I sent them written evidence.

“They are also continuing to advertise and sell tickets for the event, and I understand they have threatened to enforce payment for breach of contract by Buxton Raceway for cancelling it.

“I have written to Viive Events to call on them to stop advertising the tickets and to refund everyone who has bought a ticket, as there is no prospect of the event being able to be re-scheduled either during the summer or in the autumn when winds will be too strong to meet UK government guidelines of a maximum 5mph for a mass sky lantern release.”

Mrs George said she had also reported the American company to the police and trading standards over continuing to advertise and sell tickets for the now cancelled event.

More than 9,000 people 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.