Balloonist hits out at council over take-off dispute

A BALLOONIST has hit out at Barkway Parish Council after it revoked his permission to launch from council land.

Dave Such has been flying balloons for more than 20 years and had secured the right to fly from Barkway Recreation Ground from the parish council – but it has now ended the arrangement.

Mr Such, 44, said: “Barkway Parish Council has discontinued permission for me and flying partner Mark Tomlin to use Barkway Recreation Ground for our personal recreation.

“I believe this is in breach of our rights as residents of Barkway.

“Anyone else is allowed to kick a football around, have a picnic, or do anything else they wish without issue, but we cannot go ballooning from the site.

“People were even able to participate in archery on three occasions there last year with more sessions planned for this year, and the parish council lights fireworks for the annual November 5 celebrations.

“We would have thought that archery and fireworks pose a far greater risk than an occasional balloon launching.”

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Barkway Parish Council has cancelled the arrangement over insurance issues, and says that an inspection by its insurers revealed that additional coverage was required to allow Mr Such to fly his balloon, which would prove expensive for council tax payers.

The authority also claimed that several members of the public had raised fears over the balloon’s proximity to children in the park.

An email from the council to Mr Such stated: “On further checks with our insurers and Local Government regulations, we learned that unfortunately, the original decision to grant permission based solely on personal liability insurance cover was misguided, and that in order to accommodate aviation-based sports and activities on council-owned land, we would be required to take additional insurance premiums at considerable cost to the taxpayer. On consultation with our current insurers, we regret that they are unwilling, following an inspection of the site, to offer this additional cover.”

Mr Such claims the Civil Aviation Authority requires balloons to have only third party liability insurance, and he says he has never heard of a council refusing a balloon the right to fly over such a matter.

A spokesman for Barkway Parish Council said: “Whilst we understand Mr Such’s disappointment at this decision, the parish council, has had to take into account a number of concerns raised by the community and the terms and conditions of our public liability insurers since permission was originally granted to fly hot air balloons from the recreation area in 2009/10.”