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Gravesham fireworks postponed so as not to upset Thames whale Benny

PUBLISHED: 16:36 19 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:41 19 October 2018

Will you be going to a fireworks display in Havering? Photo: Paul Bennett

Will you be going to a fireworks display in Havering? Photo: Paul Bennett

Archant

Gravesham fireworks display is to be postponed for fear of disturbing the whale who has taken up home in the Thames in Gravesend.

Benny the beluga whale swimming in the Thames near Gravesend. Photo: PA/Victoria JonesBenny the beluga whale swimming in the Thames near Gravesend. Photo: PA/Victoria Jones

Nicknamed Benny, the beluga was first spotted on September 25 and looks set to stay for a while.

He has been seen numerous times swimming strongly and feeding normally and crowds have gathered on the river bank to catch a glimpse of Gravesend’s latest celebrity.

The annual fireworks display was due to be held on Friday, November 2 at the Riverside Leisure Area in Gravesend, with the fireworks set off from a barge in the Thames.

But Councillor David Turner, leader of Gravesham Borough Council, said: “Following advice from the Port of London Authority, we have decided to postpone the Gravesham Fireworks this year.

“While we are very disappointed at having to postpone the fireworks, we understand the need to keep Benny safe, must take priority. Every effort will be made to reschedule this hugely popular event, but a decision cannot be made now as no-one knows how long Benny will remain in residence here.

“While we understand this is also disappointing to the thousands of residents and visitors who enjoy our fantastic fireworks display every year, we have to ensure our special visitor is kept safe and well.

“We have considered alternative sites, but there is not a big enough area we can use for the 15,000 people that attend our fireworks display. Also, the advice given to us is that we should not re-arrange the fireworks to take place near the river in the Gravesend area, as this may still disturb Benny.

“Keeping Benny safe has to be our priority while he visits us here in Gravesend, thousands of miles from his usual Arctic habitat. I’m sure everyone, while disappointed by this postponement of the fireworks, will understand.”

Gravesham Borough Council has been advised that disturbing the whale would be in breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. With this in mind the council is urging residents and businesses to think twice about holding private firework displays near the river in Gravesend, so that we all #KeepBennySafe.

The fireworks will be rearranged when Benny leaves Gravesend to go to his winter retreat.

The council suggests people keep an eye on their social feeds such as Twitter @graveshambc, Facebook /GraveshamBoroughCouncil and Instagram @graveshambc and use the hashtag #KeepBennySafe to find out the latest on Benny and the fireworks.

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