Benny the beluga has taken up residence in the Thames since September and looks set to stay as he feels right at home here in Gravesend.
Benny was first spotted in Gravesend on Tuesday 25 September, and has been spotted numerous times swimming strongly and feeding normally, enjoying all Gravesend has to offer its visitors.
Crowds have gathered from the river bank to catch a glimpse of Benny who has become Gravesend’s latest celebrity.
As we approach our annual Fireworks night (Friday 2 November) at the Riverside Leisure Area in Gravesend, with the fireworks set off from a barge in the Thames, we have consulted with colleagues at the Port of London Authority (PLA).
The environmental advice on the effects of fireworks on or over the river is that the fireworks would cause disturbance to Benny.
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 and we will theme the revised display around Benny, ensuring everyone has a whale of a time!
In the meantime, visitors to Gravesend can enjoy spotting Benny, as well as everything Gravesham has to offer. Great shopping and one of the oldest markets in Kent – Gravesend Borough Market; to Gravesend’s association with Pocahontas, who is buried in St George’s Church in Gravesend; to our picturesque villages and countryside; as well as Gravesend Town Pier – the oldest remaining cast iron pier in the world and LV21, the last lightship built in the UK, both on the river in Gravesend.
This year, the Gravesham Fireworks are kindly sponsored by Swale Heating.
The council suggest 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.