fly-tipped rubbish for a bonfire at a site in Liverpool

BLOG: Bonfire Night has become a fortnight-long fight for safety

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We have a Bonfire Night problem in Liverpool – and it needs tackling head on, writes Councillor Laura Robertson-Collins, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods.

The sad fact is that November 5th is no longer a night of celebration in large parts of our city.

In some areas it’s been hijacked by organised gangs, fly-tipping under the excuse of “a community event”.

For many of our residents, Bonfire Night is now a curse – especially for those living near to open plots of land that are being used as dumping grounds for industrial quantities of waste – and often hazardous waste at that.

The issue has been building for some years now, but last year the scale and proximity to homes of some of these illegal bonfires posed a real threat to life.

Not just to the people and animals living in properties that could be consumed with toxic smoke or even set on fire from dispersed embers. The danger is also very real to fire officers who have to put out these potential death traps that have at times contained explosive items, such as pressurised containers.

The risk of serious injury to those attending and watching these fires is also a big worry.

Almost 100 tonnes of waste was removed in 2022 – and still there were numerous fires which proved a huge drain on public finances in putting them out and cleaning the sites.

The environmental impact is also huge – to the land that is scarred for months afterwards – and the soil beneath, that is contaminated for years to come.

I don’t think I need to spell out the impact of air pollution and the issue we all face when it comes to burning plastics, tyres, furniture and oil on our city.

The City Council, Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service are united on this matter – enough is enough.

This year, a two week long operation has been underway – called Operation Banger – to put an end to these bonfires of misery.

The largest sites historically have been identified and preventative clearances have begun.

The truth is much of what is being deposited can – and should be recycled.

100% of what is being taken away by our crews will be. In just the past 10 days, 34 tonnes has been removed. 24 tonnes at two sites alone!

To put that into context, our crews collected 50 tonnes over the three weeks of Eurovision. And that event attracted over half a million people!

Let’s be honest. This is fly-tipping on a criminal scale. And our crews have been threatened at some of these sites, needing to return under police escort.

That is simply inexcusable.

If you see any fly-tipping, please let the Council know and enforcement action will be taken against the offenders.

It is also important that we think about the impact of fireworks on our more vulnerable residents and those residents who may find the loud noises and flashing lights associated with Bonfire Night distressing.

If you are going to set off fireworks, please consider members of your community, as well as your pets. Dog owners dread the fact fireworks are fired not just on the 5th but for days before and after. The stress and worry affects thousands of homes, and the impact on their pets can last for months afterwards.

Our Trading Standards team will be out monitoring the illegal selling of fireworks, and again we won’t cease to prosecute those caught doing so.

This is not about being anti-fun. This is about being safe.

And it’s not like there are no alternatives.

The Police and Crime Commissioner has funded 24 projects across Merseyside, including eight in Liverpool, through the Youth Diversion Fund for young people to enjoy and attend around these weeks.

And the City Council has once again programmed the River of Light Festival – which is free for everyone to explore and enjoy all through this half term.

Remember, remember – the fifth of November is meant to be a night for everyone to enjoy: safely.

No one wants to be reading on November sixth about children being seriously injured or, god forbid, a family talking about a lost relative and remembering how amazing they were.

Please take care.

Liverpool Waterfront