Fireworks, bonfires likely allowed in The Hague this New Year's
The municipality in The Hague does not intend to ban consumer fireworks this upcoming New Year’s, though the city will create more fireworks-free zones. It also looks like the New Year’s bonfires on the beaches in Duindorp and Scheveningen will happen this year. The municipality already issued event permits, and the province of Zuid-Holland plans to grant the organizers a nature permit.
According to the municipality, a complete fireworks ban would be too difficult to enforce. Unlike the two previous New Year’s, when there was a nationwide ban on fireworks to prevent hospitals overloaded with coronavirus patients from also having to treat fireworks injuries, people are allowed to buy and carry fireworks this year. “That complicates the enforcement of a local ban,” said The Hague. The cities of Rotterdam, Nijmegen, and Apeldoorn have such a local ban, Arnhem plans to join next year.
Instead, The Hague will significantly increase its fireworks-free zones, where people are not allowed to light fireworks, to 53 in total. In 2019/20, the city already banned fireworks around hospitals, petting zoos, and animal shelters. The Hague is adding another 30 zones this year, including “around riding stables and green areas, such as forests, parks, and Natura 2000 areas (dunes).”
There will likely be no fireworks show at the Hofvijver. Last year, the show got canceled at the last minute due to coronavirus restrictions. This year, with just over two months to go, there is “no organization that can and wants to organize such a fireworks show.”
The bonfires in Duindorp and Scheveningen will likely happen. In September, the municipality of The Hague gave the organizers an even permit, meaning that the city approved their plans for ensuring the safety of visitors and local residents.
But for the bonfires to happen, the organizers also need a nature permit from the province. Duindorp and Scheveningen are both next to protected Natura 2000 areas - Westduinpark and Wapendal at Duindorp and Meijendel and Berkheide at Scheveningen. The smoke from the bonfires can release nitrogen there. The province asked the Haaglanden Environmental Agency to calculate, and it concluded that the nitrogen emissions from the bonfires would “not affect” the nature areas.
The nature permits are not yet final. The province is still inspecting them, and locals can object until the beginning of November. The organizers also require a water permit. The Delfland water board said it is still assessing the applications. The municipality of The Hague also has to issue an environmental exemption.
For decades, Duindorp and Scheveningen built massive piles of bonfire wood on the beaches every New Year’s, competing for the tallest tower and then setting them alight on New Year’s Eve. At the 2018/19 bonfire, things went wrong. The strong wind blew smoldering wood over Scheveningen. Sparks caused countless small fires and over a million euros in damages. An investigation then showed that both piles were much higher than agreed with the municipality, and the city did not do enough to enforce the rules. The conclusions led to the resignation of mayor Pauline Krikke.
Because of the shower of sparks, The Hague did not allow Scheveningen and Duindorp to build bonfires for the 2019/20 New Year’s. And then coronavirus restrictions prevented the bonfires in the two years after that.
To prevent a recurrence, the bonfire piles can’t be larger than 10 meters long, 10 meters wide, and 10 meters high this year.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times