Swanage and Studland not likely to get Dorset barbecue and fly camping bans

A legal ban on the use of disposable barbecues in Dorset’s heathland and woodland areas and on antisocial camping on beaches, are poised to be introduced by Dorset Council but it’s proposed they won’t cover Swanage or Studland.

In a report to Dorset Council’s places and resources overview committee, it’s being recommended that councillors agree to bring in new antisocial behaviour related Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) from Friday 22nd April 2022.

Camping gear and rubbish dumped in Studland
Purbeck Police

National Trust warden clears up after a group of fly campers in Studland

Calls to include Swanage and Studland

Responses to a public consultation called to include Swanage to protect it from the lighting of barbecues and fly camping.

The landowner, the National Trust also requested that Studland be included after two very difficult years for its wardens, who have tried to protect the internationally recognised habitat from damage, without any legal backing.

The Purbeck peninsula is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and parts of it are designated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Disposable barbecues left in piles of rubbish
Swanage Fire Station

Rubbish including disposable barbecues, left outside the toilets at South Beach in Studland

An increase in antisocial behaviour

Over the last two years of the covid pandemic and with international travel restricted, Purbeck has seen an increase in antisocial overnight camping and people lighting campfires and disposable barbecues among tinder dry heathland.

The Wareham Forest Fire in 2020 started by a disposable barbecue and camp fire was devastating to wildlife.

In November 2021 a fire on Godlingston Heath near Studland, accidentally started by a bonfire, destroyed around 20 hectares of heathland within a few hours.

Studland Fire
Amelia Coffen

The fire in November 2021, started by a bonfire, that quickly spread across Godlingston Heath in Studland. It’s proposed that the PSPO will not include this area but it will cover the woodland area of Rempstone Heath seen behind the burnt ground

Starting of fires in grass, moorland and forest areas

The Dorset open land anti-social behaviour related PSPO is intended to tackle issues of antisocial behaviour arising from the starting of fires in grass, moorland and forest areas.

It’s proposed to cover areas of forest and heathland in various locations around Ferndown, St Leonards, West Moors, Wareham, Puddletown, Affpuddle and Moreton.

It also includes Rempstone Heath in Purbeck, owned by Forestry England but not the surrounding woodland and heathland including Godlingstone Heath, RSPB Arne or the Studland dunes under different ownership but part of the same landscape.

Map of area covering barbecue ban
OS maps

The areas of Purbeck to be included in the PSPO that will enforce a ban on lighting fires and disposable barbecues, include Wareham Forest and Rempstone Heath, both owned by Forestry England

“The main issue raised concerned the inclusion of further open land”

In the report is says:

“Consultation responses were strongly supportive of the draft order (94.5 percent), the main issue raised concerned the inclusion of further open land.

“The Urban Heaths Partnership have proposed additional areas which they believe would benefit from the restriction. Also, they are concerned that including some open land (in this case Forestry England managed land) but not other land e.g. heathland, may lead to a displacement effect. The National Trust has also asked for Studland Beach to be included.

“The proposed additional areas would require consultation in their own right and therefore cannot be considered for inclusion in this order.”

It is not clear why other areas in Purbeck weren’t initially included or why the National Trust in Purbeck and the Urban Heaths Partnership weren’t consulted earlier.

The report continues:

“However, the issues raised are appreciated and if this order is successful in reducing the risk of fire on open land, a further order may be appropriate.”

Camp fire in Wareham Forset
Wareham Fire Station

Fires continue to be lit despite the warnings in Wareham Forest, which will be covered by the PSPO. The fire service was called to this incident on Saturday 26th February 2022, only to discover two adults and two children having a campfire in the forest.

Displacement concern

One of the main concerns is that banning open fires and disposable barbecues from a small area of Purbeck owned by Forestry England, will give the impression that it is acceptable to light fires in adjacent areas that are arguably more vulnerable and environmentally sensitive.

While the report now realises this is a problem, it says:

“With respect to displacement, the concern is acknowledged. Landowners/operators may still warn against the lighting of open fires etc. as a matter of common sense and incorporate (sic) in conditions of use.”

This means it won’t be legally enforceable to stop people lighting fires or disposable barbecues across the majority of Purbeck. Leaving only the fire service with the authority to extinguish disposable barbecues, which draws on its limited resources.

Swanage Fire crew put out a barbecue at Studland
Swanage Coastguard

Swanage Fire crew extinguish a barbecue lit by overnight campers on Shell Bay in Studland

Camping on beaches

The Dorset beaches anti-social behaviour related PSPO is intended to tackle issues of anti-social behaviour arising from camping on beaches.

It proposes to cover most of the Dorset coastline from West Bay to Weymouth and Durdle Door beach to Lulworth Cove. It’s not proposed to cover the rest of the Purbeck coastline including Swanage and Studland beaches.

The responses from the consultation identified that the main issue in the draft PSPOs was the focus on certain geographical areas while excluding similar geographical areas with equally challenging issues.

Additional areas requested were Studland beaches owned by the National Trust and Swanage in Purbeck, as well as Overcombe and Bowleaze beaches near Weymouth.

Barbecue on Studland beach
Swanage Fire Station
Barbecue on Studland beach
Swanage Fire Station

Barbecues and litter on Middle Beach in Studland

“Proposed that officers research the relevant areas”

The report says:

“The National Trust made a number of suggested amendments to the proposed order in relation to additional areas however it is felt that the addition of new areas should be subject to further consultation and it is proposed that officers research the relevant areas proposed and present a further report for consideration at a later meeting of the committee, along with any supporting evidence.”

It is not clear whether this means that these beaches could be included in the PSPO, which is intended to be introduced in April 2022.

The issue with banning antisocial camping from some Dorset beaches and not others, risks increasing the problems at the beaches not covered by the PSPO.

The order will not ban people fishing from a beach overnight as long as they are using appropriate equipment and a proper fishing shelter.

Camping gear and rubbish dumped in Studland
Purbeck Police
Disposable barbecue causing grass to burn
Wareham Fire Station

Disposable barbecues can quickly burn grass causing damage

PSPOs for Bridport, Dorchester, Lyme Regis, Portland, West Bay and Weymouth under discussion

The new beach and open land PSPOs will be discussed at Dorset Council’s places and resources overview committee at 10 am on Monday 7th March 2022.

Also under consideration are PSPOs covering general antisocial behaviour in Bridport, Dorchester, Lyme Regis, Portland, West Bay and Weymouth.

It’s pointed out in the report that with the exception of Weymouth and Portland there are no additional resources to fund enforcement. The report notes:

“At this time, there are no additional council resources and officers are working with relevant organisations to identify where we may authorise further employees to assist in enforcement. It should be noted that the orders in themselves can have a deterrent effect when effectively
publicised and signed.”

Sign warning of high fire risk

The National Trust in Studland currently relies on people obeying their signs

Further information

  • The full consultation report is on the Dorset Council website
  • Watch online the Dorset Council’s places and resources overview committee at 10 am on Monday 7th March 2022 via a link on the agenda
  • Any member of the public wishing to submit a question or statement to the committee, to be read out at the start of the meeting must email their submission to lindsey.watson@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk by 8.30 am on Wednesday 2nd March 2022. 

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