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Bid launched to save Dundee’s free public firework displays

There are fears about the safety impact of ending the public displays.
There are fears about the safety impact of ending the public displays.

Opposition councillors in Dundee have launched a bid to save public firework displays after plans were revealed to scrap them.

The council-run events usually held at Lochee and Baxter parks will not be continued under proposals put forward by the Dundee City Council leadership.

The potential cancellation of both events attracted a strong reaction, with around three quarters of readers disagreeing with the move in a Courier poll.

The events – which were free for the public to attend – have been cancelled over the past two years due to Covid-19, but it has now emerged they may never return.

It comes after an inspection raised concerns about emergency exits at Baxter Park in light of new guidance introduced after the Manchester Arena terror attack.

A committee will make a final decision on the move next week, but Liberal Democrat group leader councillor Fraser Macpherson has put forward an amendment asking council chiefs to think again.

‘Knee-jerk reaction’

Mr Macpherson says a fuller risk assessment on the impact of cancelling the events should be carried out, pointing to the risk of unofficial bonfires and firework displays.

He told The Courier: “The knee-jerk reaction to the report has been to recommend the complete cancellation of future firework displays.

“The message from the council in the past has been not to have private displays where there is a health and safety risk, but go to public displays that are well managed.

“Now there are not going to be public displays.”

He added: “We need input from Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland to know how many private individuals will decide to do things themselves and the issues that can cause.”

Around 20 to 25,000 attend each display at Baxter and Lochee parks every year, something Mr Macpherson says mitigates the negative impacts of bonfire night on local communities.

Dundee Councillor Fraser Macpherson
Councillor Fraser Macpherson.

“It keeps fireworks out of the wrong hands,” he added.

Residents in Dundee’s Kirkton area said it felt like they were living in a “lawless society” amid a spike in anti-social behaviour on bonfire night last year.

Incidents reported to police included misuse of fireworks, public parks being set alight and Dundee firefighters being attacked.

Mr Macpherson’s motion, which will go before the city development committee on Monday, also asks for clarity on the commitment that the £50,000 usually spent on the displays would go towards an enhanced Christmas events programme – following on from Winterfest last year.

The organised displayed could be axed.

Mr Macpherson says he would like to see specific detail about how the money would be spent.

He added: “If you’re cancelling longstanding free events, however good the reasons, you have to come forward with a clear offer as to what the alternative will be.

“We want a report that shows the potential effects in terms of risk but also a clear proposal on what the £50,000 will be spent on.”

Council bosses told to think again

Labour group leader Kevin Keenan said his group has not yet agreed their position on the proposal, but that he shared concerns about the impact.

He said: “It increases the risk.

“I would be in favour of banning firework sales in the shops and having public displays.

“I’m quite in agreement with the fact that the council may need to reconsider this.”

City development convener Mark Flynn declined to comment, saying he would not address a motion before it had been heard at the meeting.

Dundee’s public fireworks displays could be scrapped over safety fears

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