Council backs down over plans to ban drones in parks and open spaces
COVENTRY City Council has backed down on controversial plans to ban drones being flown in parks and open spaces in the city.
The climb-down on the proposal came following hundreds of complaints from enthusiasts of the hobby.
The authority has instead agreed to defer making a decision until they have collected information on how other authorities regulate drone use.
Council officers will also gather figures on the number of complaints received in relation to inappropriate drone use over the last three years.
But they have passed a policy which will give West Midlands Police permission to use council land to launch and land drones to help tackle crime.
While the council does not currently have a drone policy, it has to date dealt with matters using vehicle and nuisance prohibitions contained in its Byelaws for Pleasure Grounds 1962.
The council had proposed making it council policy to ban hobbyists from flying drones in their parks and open spaces, and charging professionals £50 for the privilege.
But at a meeting of the cabinet member for policing and equalities on Thursday, January 10, a drones expert warned an all-out ban on hobbyists would have consequences.
Kerry Blakeman said: “If it goes through in its current format where do drone users actually fly these drones? There will not be anywhere in the city they can do it.
“My concern is they will fly them in their gardens and in the streets which will be in breach of the drones policy.”
The drone community will be criminalised if this policy goes through because of the actions of a few
Mr Blakeman, a former chief inspector at West Midlands Police who now runs droneheights.co.uk, said it would be a knee-jerk reaction to incidents at Gatwick.
He added: “The drone community will be criminalised if this policy goes through because of the actions of a few.”
But the council’s solicitor Gill Carter insisted the policy has not come as a result of activity at Gatwick, but was written in November following complaints.
The council does not have figures on the number of complaints they had received and Cllr Alan Andrews said there was “clearly a lack of data”.
He also questioned why there had not been a consultation.
Mr Blakeman proposed the council introduced designated areas for drones as a compromise, saying it presented “a real opportunity” to embrace new technologies.
But Ms Carter, who admitted she had received 205 emails complaining about the policy, said: “To say you can fly drones in certain areas may prevent other people from using it.”
The council will instead carry out further research into the policy, with Mr Blakeman offering to provide support.
He said after the meeting: “I’m delighted the two contentious measures - the one regarding introducing an outline ban on drones - have been deferred, along with the potential to charge for commercial operations.”