Harry Wearing
By Harry Wearing

Senior Staff Writer

29 December 2020

| | 3 min read


Families urged to enjoy Newcastle’s large scale New Year festivities rather than hold home firework displays

Families are being urged to enjoy Newcastle’s major New Year festivities from home rather than celebrate with fireworks.


With professionally launched fireworks displays set to be visible from large areas of the city, residents are once again being asked not to buy rockets, Roman candles, sparklers and other pyrotechnics for personal use.

Cllr John-Paul Stephenson, Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet member for environment and regulatory services, has also written to the Government after a Bonfire Night period that was unfortunately once again marred by fireworks related anti-social behaviour.

“We’ve all had a tough year, we know that everyone is looking for something to raise their spirits, and we know that many people love fireworks, but we all need to enjoy them in a safe and appropriate way,” Cllr Stephenson said.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see a small number of people whose behaviour spoils things for the rest and, year after year, councillors receive concerns, which often express anger that the sale of fireworks for use at home is not banned.

“We are very much not saying that fireworks are bad and indeed there will be some fantastic professionally organised displays – viewable from many people’s doorsteps - as part of this New Year’s festivities.

“However, more needs to be done to tackle what is an escalating national problem of fireworks related anti-social behaviour, which is both a nuisance for our communities and potentially very dangerous.

“That is why I have asked the Government, a year after their Petitions Committee outlined potential actions, what they are actually doing to address this issue, including whether they are working with social media companies to prevent illicit sales, and what extra resources they can give us and other agencies to deal with this.”


The law on fireworks

You can buy fireworks (including sparklers) from registered sellers – places like supermarkets - for private use from October 15 to November 10, December 26 to 31, and three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year.

At other times fireworks are only legally available from specialist licensed shops.

You must not set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public places.

And fireworks must not be set off between 11pm and 7am, except for Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight, and New Year's Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am.

Selling or using fireworks illegally could see you given an on-the-spot fine of £90, or for more severe offences fined up to £5,000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months.

Ian Bell Head of Fire Safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: “Fireworks can be great entertainment, but they are explosives and are dangerous. Please don’t put extra pressure on firefighters or the emergency services this festive and New Year period.

“If you’re going to buy fireworks, please choose a licensed and reputable retailer and follow the instructions carefully. Follow the Firework Code and buy fireworks that are suitable for a garden display.”

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the British Burn Association (BBA) recently commented on the dangers of holding firework displays at home.

With the pandemic and government restrictions on social gatherings dampening the flames of many organised Bonfire Night displays, Chair of NFCC’s Prevention Committee Neil Odin and Chair of the BBA Yvonne Wilson have shared their concerns around home displays, which could see a rise in the number of incidents and accidents and place pressure on the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services and the NHS.

Between 2014 –19 there were more than 1,000 severe burn injuries involving fireworks in England and Wales, with 38% of these in youngsters under 15 years of age and the majority (67%) were sustained by males.

Speaking about this year’s Guy Fawkes celebrations, NFCC’s Neil Odin, said:

“Bonfire Night and the days surrounding it are notoriously busy for Fire and Rescue Services. Normally we advise people to attend a professionally organised display because we know they are safer with very few significant injuries occurring and appropriate first aid is always available on site.

“This year, however, as we all know, is very different. The pandemic means more families may try to hold displays at home perhaps without the experience of having handled fireworks before.

“We ask people to think twice about whether they need to have a display at home and instead look to other ways of celebrating Bonfire Night with their immediate families. If they choose to celebrate with fireworks at home, we ask them to plan very carefully and ensure they buy suitable, legal fireworks and they have sufficient space to hold a display to make their celebration as safe as possible.

BBA Chair Yvonne Wilson who is also a Consultant Surgeon in Burns and Plastic Surgery at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, added: “Nationally, every year around this time we see an increase in the number of burns accidents as a result of fireworks that require ongoing medical treatment. The anticipated increase in home displays may also lead to an increase in these types of injuries which can be devastating for families, so we urge caution.”

The NFCC advises that in order to hold a firework display, the space required depends on the type of firework and must be checked. The information for each firework will be printed on the side of the product so should be checked before purchase. In general, the distance required will range from five metres to 25 metres, this is equivalent to half the length of a fire engine to two and half times the length of a fire engine. So, spectators should be at least this distance away from the firework when it is set off. Therefore, the size of the garden will need to be greater than the distance shown on the firework.

If families do have the space in their garden, they must ensure that fireworks are bought from a licensed supplier or authorised retailer who can also provide appropriate advice. Fireworks must not be bought or used by anyone under the age of 18 and fireworks must have the CE safety mark printed on them.

Recently introduced government legislation gives police the powers to fine people who break the latest measures. Government restrictions on social gatherings - both nationally and locally - aim to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to ease pressures on the NHS.

For information on first aid for minor burns, please visit: https://www.capt.org.uk/first-aid-for-burns-and-scalds

Enjoying fireworks safely this New Year

Cllr Ged Bell, Newcastle City Council cabinet member with responsibility for events, said: “Traditionally New Year’s Eve in Newcastle would be celebrated with public firework displays at 6pm and 12 midnight, with thousands of people in attendance.

“Obviously, as we must avoid mass gatherings to reduce social contact and the risk of infection, this is not going ahead this year.

“As we have throughout the year, we’ve had to think differently. With our partners we have created a programme of fireworks displays that can be enjoyed from home and, we had hoped to present a spectacular light display from the Quayside but this can now sadly not go ahead.”

At 6pm on New Year’s Eve fireworks will be launched from five undisclosed locations across the city so families enjoy them without the need to leave their homes.

What the Government said

In response to Cllr Stephenson’s letter, the minister for small business, consumers & labour markets, Paul Scully, said the Government “takes issues associated with the sale and use of fireworks seriously,” but he could “not necessarily allay residents’ concerns.”

He said that with Covid restrictions potentially increasing the number of private displays the Office for Product Safety and Standards had “launched a public awareness campaign” and “worked with a wide range of stakeholders, including local authorities, safety charities, animal welfare organisations and retail bodies” to “educate people on how to buy, use, store and dispose of fireworks safely.”

However, he said the Government’s position was not to seek to ban the sale of fireworks for home use as it could have “unintended consequences that would be counterproductive for public safety, such as individuals sourcing illegal and unsafe products online.”

“The Government is engaging with animal charities to further discuss their work related to animal welfare issues,” he said, “engaging with local authorities to understand the issues they face with regard to fireworks; and, engaging with the fireworks industry to discuss any additional action they might take to address the concerns raised around fireworks packaging appealing to underage individuals.

“With regard to online sales of fireworks, there is a wider project being carried out by the Office of Product Safety and Standards on all online sales that will help inform on issues around fireworks.”

Find out more

For more information about fireworks and how to enjoy them safely visit www.newcastle.gov.uk/fireworks