Coun­cil backs down over plans to ban drones in parks and open spa­ces

Warwickshire Telegraph - - NEWS - By TOM DAVIS

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.”

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