Sotonians ask council to bring back balloon festival

The people of Southampton are once again calling for their local authority to reinstate the city’s annual balloon and flower event.

Over three thousand have signed a new petition to see the festival return. The event, which took place over the course of four days, was once a major occasion on the city’s calendar. Over the course of the festival, its attendance was reportedly running close to half a million, with it being estimated that visitors spent an additional £13m in the area.

Despite the success of the event, the council cancelled it when the number of visitors started to fall and the costs of holding it began to rise. The last time that the festival was held, only 75,000 people attended and it cost £150,000 to stage, of which the local authority contributed £70,000.

The idea of reinstating the festival has been considered before. In 2009, 11,000 people signed a petition, but the council did look at bringing back the event in detail.

That time around, it was concluded that there was no safe way of allowing hot air balloon flights without shutting Southampton airport at certain times. However, the council is currently reviewing the situation, so the festival may still be held in the city once again.

Members of the public have pointed out that light shows and tethered flights should not disturb airport operations. They have also commented that no flights leave the airport before 7am, so, in the summer, balloons could fly between sunrise and then.

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