Joanna Mowat: The time is right to look at the impact of firework displays
I seem to have lit the blue touch paper with my motion asking for a report into the impact of fireworks on people, pets and places. Residents of the city centre, and further afield, regularly raise this issue with me. Given the changes that have taken place in the city and increase in events over the years using fireworks it seems appropriate to have a report looking into the impacts '“ both good and ill '“ of fireworks and whether it would benefit the city to make changes.
Many people have mentioned that fireworks are a sensory experience and play to both the eye and the ear and I agree when you can see and hear the fireworks it’s a great experience, but there are many people who experience the noise without the image on many nights of the year. There are negative impacts from fireworks on pets and other wildlife and there is the effect on people suffering from PTSD who have experienced trauma and are catapulted back into that nightmare by the fireworks. Is it not time to consider the effects of fireworks on them?
Residents report that they feel the fireworks as well as hear them – this is a historic city and more than 75 per cent of the buildings in the city centre are listed I think it is worthwhile listening to residents and investigating whether there is an impact on the buildings and infrastructure of the city. The council has a duty to look after the city’s heritage and investigating whether 21st century living and activities are not damaging the buildings is part of this duty. Looking into the possible impact of fireworks is one small aspect of this.
Regarding Hogmanay, the report is to look at the impact of all the fireworks across the year and it will take into consideration the positive impacts on the city of fireworks.
There are alternatives to traditional fireworks – quieter, or so-called silent – fireworks that create spectacle whilst dramatically reducing the noise.
I don’t know what the recommendations will be but I do know this is a matter that merits discussion by the council and my fellow 57 councillors agreed with that as none of them objected to my motion.
Edinburgh is not a doughnut city where everyone lives in the suburbs and people only come into the city centre to work or play – that might make it easier to stage big events but would destroy the authenticity that visitors value. It does make Edinburgh more challenging to manage but makes it a better city for residents and visitors and we should try and keep it that way.
Cities change constantly, but when we know something is a benefit to the city – and residents living in the centre of the city is a benefit – we should be prepared to review changes in order to make sure that we don’t lose the very thing that gives Edinburgh her heart. This report is one small part of trying to ensure we are balancing the needs of residents and visitors so we keep the centre of the city a living city centre.
Joanna Mowat is a Conservative councillor for City Centre