Too late for Dorset barbecue ban for this summer

Amid criticism of moving too slowly to implement a legal order banning the use of disposable barbecues in public spaces, Dorset Council has opted to rely on an information campaign to persuade people from using them this year.

The council set up a working party to tackle the problem in June 2020 following the Wareham Forest fire, however at the Dorset Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday 6th April 2021, it was explained that there hadn’t been enough time to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for this summer.

Fire destruction in Wareham Forest

The devastation of the Wareham Forest fire was caused by disposable barbecues or a camp fire

Legal measure to prevent antisocial behaviour

A PSPO is a legal measure used by councils to prevent antisocial behaviour and its power means that enforcement officers can issue fines if the order isn’t respected. Putting a PSPO in place, banning the use of disposable barbecues would have made it legally enforceable.

At the time that the working party was set up last June 2020, councillor Rebecca Knox, who represents Dorset Council on the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority urged the group to start a consultation on introducing a PSPO as soon as possible, warning of the amount of time that they take to implement.

Disposable barbecue causing grass to burn
Wareham Fire Station

“Some short term actions”

At the recent cabinet meeting, Dorset Council portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, Ray Bryan said:

“It became apparent that trying to get PSPOs in place, takes time, so what we are proposing are some short term actions. It’s imperative we get actions in place to make sure, as we enter into what is going to be a particularly busy summer season, we educate everybody, as to what they should be doing regarding protecting our area from devastating fires.”

The short term actions that were agreed by the cabinet included:

  • Adopting a new policy prohibiting the use of disposable barbecues and camp fires at any Dorset Council country parks including Durlston or any other Dorset Council land deemed high risk for fire. As a policy and not an order, it is not legally enforceable but is intended to provide a consistent approach
  • Investigating providing communal electric barbecues at Moors Valley Country Park near Ashley Heath, as an attractive alternative to disposable barbecue use
  • Investigating funding options for a Firewise voluntary warden scheme
  • Supporting and developing the Dorset Council information campaign about the use of disposable barbecues
Barbecues at Wareham fire
DW Fire and Rescue

“PSPOs in place by 2022”

Ray Bryan added:

“We are hoping to get some PSPOs in place by 2022 but unfortunately we are in the hands of time.”

He also revealed that he had received positive comments from three of the large supermarkets, who were willing to work with Dorset Council on signs on how to safely dispose of disposable barbecues.

Swanage Fire crew put out a barbecue at Studland
Swanage Coastguard

Swanage Fire crew extinguishing a barbecue at Studland in 2020

“We have to get on with these things”

At the cabinet meeting, councillor Kate Wheller said:

“I’m very disappointed we aren’t moving more quickly on this. I think we’re moving too slowly.

“I would like the scope of this to go wider than heathland and woodland and extend to all of our beaches and other public areas as well. And I’d like it to be done more quickly. We have to get on with these things.”

West Purbeck councillor Laura Miller added:

“They are a problem, these barbecues. It’s really upsetting when you see the fire risk; when you see the devastation; when you see people treading on them and the rubbish. I would have liked us to be a bit stronger (on the issue). I think we really need to be leading the way on this.”

Barbecue on Studland beach
Swanage Fire Station

Knoll Beach in Studland 2020

“It is not acceptable to have barbecues on the beach”

Dorset Council portfolio holder for customer and community services, Jill Haynes explained that while a PSPO would make a ban legally enforceable, she felt that the real issue was about changing people’s attitude. She said:

“I think a lot of this is about it being unacceptable behaviour…

“It is not acceptable to have barbecues on the beach – they are very difficult to take home with you, we haven’t got the appropriate bins to put them in and we wouldn’t want people to put them lit in the bin and then have people put fish and chip type rubbish on top.

“So we’re in a really difficult situation with this – we need to think it through properly, before we get an order in place but we are trying our hardest to get that sorted as soon as possible.”

Disposable barbecues left in piles of rubbish
Swanage Fire Station

One year extension on two existing PSPOs

Earlier in the cabinet meeting, Jill Haynes had proposed a one year extension on two existing PSPOs that were due to expire – one for West Dorset (covering Dorchester, Bridport, West Bay and Lyme Regis) and the other for Weymouth and Portland. These give powers against anti-social behaviour.

The proposal was agreed with the intention over the next year to fully review the legislation across the whole Dorset Council area. The implication being that this could provide the opportunity to implement an enforcable ban on the use of disposable barbecues in Dorset’s public spaces for 2022.

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