Saturday, 21 October 2017

Barbecues banned as 'fire risk'

BARBECUES have been banned from Marsh Meadows in Henley.

BARBECUES have been banned from Marsh Meadows in Henley.

They were already banned from Mill Meadows and have now been prohibited on the neighbouring riverside grassland, which is popular with picnickers and visitors.

The town council has put up new signs informing people of the ban, which it says is for “safety and operational reasons” during the hot weather.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: “We are worried about the possibility that a barbecue could set fire to grasses that are growing in the marshy areas because it is quite dry at the moment.”

He said the ban was likely to stay in place because the council had received complaints about people using barbecues.

“We have had complaints about the scorch marks left on the ground and it is unpleasant for other visitors to have to endure the smells they would not expect to find in a public open space,” said Mr Kennedy.

The council park wardens will ask people to extinguish barbecues that they find in use. “We don’t just stick up a sign and do nothing about it,” said Mr Kennedy.

“There is a warning there and if people do not adhere to it then we will have to extinguish barbecues that are being used without consent.” However, the extended ban was criticised by Julie Perigo, who chairs the Henley Partnership, who said it could discourage people from visiting the town.

“We should be seeing how we can attract tourists rather than put them off,” she said.

“It is a ridiculous idea to think there is any fire danger. I spent a number of years in Australia and we were having barbecues in public on Christmas Day in the height of summer.

“If there were complaints, I can’t imagine who from. Whenever I have been down there people have always been wonderfully well behaved.”

She suggested setting up official areas where people could have barbecues.

Some Henley residents have also attacked the ban.

Janet Wood, of Boston Road, posted a picture of one of the signs on Twitter with the comment, “No way #Henley council. BBQs banned in Mill Meadows? I’m moving.”

Ms Wood said: “It is a shame they didn’t try to educate people before they slammed on the brakes.

“Banning people from doing something doesn’t really change behaviour, it just stops people and doesn’t tell them why.

“They could have handed out leaflets at the beginning of the summer.” Ms Wood said she had been enjoying barbecues in Marsh Meadows with friends since moving to Henley 11 years ago.

“We don’t all live in big houses and Mill Meadows is like our back garden,” she said. “It is one of the reasons people choose to move here as we are able to enjoy the river.”

She said she hoped the council would rethink the ban, adding: “It seems a shame that a few people who don’t know about raising barbecues off the grass to stop it scorching have spoiled it for the people who do care.”

Phil Stubbington, of Adwell Square, said he understood the safety issue but felt banning barbecues was extreme.

“I would have thought the council could provide barbecue stands,” he said.

“I don’t mind people having barbecues as long as they clear up their stuff afterwards. If people leave a glass bottle about it can quite easily start a fire.”

lWhat do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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