A Leyland kite-flyer has been invited to stage a spectacular air show at this year’s annual festival – just days after being grounded in Worden Park.
But Mark Jones, 45, is up in the air over whether to launch his colourful display for visitors at the Leyland Festival in June, or take flight to a more kite-friendly venue following a row over safety.
“I’m a bit puzzled by it all,” said the printer from Leyland. “I was told kite-flying is banned in the borough’s parks, yet ironically I’ve just got an invitation to put on a display there at the annual festival.”
Mark fell foul of local by-laws when he launched his 40-ft manta ray kite in Worden Park.
The flying fish was tethered to his 4x4 vehicle, but a ranger ruled it was dangerous to other park users and ordered him to rein it in.
“He told me kite-flying was banned in all Leyland’s parks under by-laws,” explained Mark who puts on displays at large festivals around the country. “So I checked for myself and, while the byelaws cover model aircraft, I couldn’t find any mention of kites.
“I approached the council and they told me it was covered under general by-laws governing annoyance to other park users.
“The only way I could fly my kites in Worden Park, they said, would be in an event for the public, as long as I applied for a licence and constructed an arena to fly them in.
“Then this invitation to stage a show on the football pitches at Leyland Festival in Worden Park dropped through the letterbox. What’s the difference?
“I have been flying kites all my life and I take safety very seriously. So seriously I have my own public liability insurance.
“In all the time I have been doing this, I have only ever heard of one incident where a kite came down and the line went across a woman’s neck, giving her a rope burn. And that was at an organised festival.
“I just think it is a case of the ranger and the council over-reacting.”
South Ribble Council denied there was a blanket ban on kite-flying in the borough’s parks, and insisted Mark had only been asked to stop because the park ranger considered the 40-foot manta ray might be a hazard to passers-by due to its size.
“This simply comes down to common sense,” said Coun Peter Mullineaux, the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for neighbourhood services.
“Lots of people fly their ordinary kites in Worden Park, but stunt kites are much heavier and faster.
“Mr Jones had to anchor his kite to his 4x4 vehicle and it could have caused quite serious injury if it came down on someone.
“His kite-flying skills are certainly not in question, but we cannot take chances with the safety of other visitors.
“Stunt kite demonstrations have taken place as part of bigger events at Worden Park in the past, but these have been in controlled areas covered by public liability insurance.
“We’d be more than happy for Mr Jones and his fellow enthusiasts to put on displays, as long as they applied to us for a licence and had the appropriate insurance.”
South Ribble by-law 20 (sub-section 3) rules park users must not “intentionally obstruct any other person in the proper use of the ground (park) or behave so as to give reasonable grounds for annoyance to other persons.”