Leader comment: Banging on about fireworks noise

Fireworks above Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street during the New Year celebrations. Now the council is investigating the use of silent fireworks. Picture Jane Barlow

Fireworks above Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street during the New Year celebrations. Now the council is investigating the use of silent fireworks. Picture Jane Barlow

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It is a fact that fireworks are the signature element of the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations, and it is not in dispute that they bring in thousands of visitors and provide a major boost to the city’s economy. Fireworks are an attraction in many cities, and now it is not just at Bonfire Night and Hogmanay.

But how much of the appeal is the sight of the fireworks exploding, and how much is down to the noise they make? The quick answer is if it was all about the noise, we wouldn’t wait until dark to let them off.

The more reasoned response is that the noise probably does add a fair bit to the drama of the display. The noise, however, constitutes almost all of the nuisance factor from fireworks, apart from the debris falling to Earth. It is the noise that has a particularly serious effect on pets, and it is the noise that can set off car alarms which obviously can have a high nuisance factor. Quite what the effect of noise is on buildings is less clear.

When displays are well flagged up and pet owners can take steps to either move pets to places the noise cannot be heard or put them in rooms where the noise can be kept to a minimum then the nuisance value is probably acceptable, but now with more people using them for birthday celebrations and the like then it is more likely that unexpected shocks will occur.

So it is sensible for Edinburgh council to commission a report as to what exactly the impact of fireworks is, and whether silent fireworks would be a feasible alternative. But it has to be remembered that big displays are a safe and well-loved public spectacle, and any disuption that they cause can be kept to a minimum.

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