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Park warden chased after barbecue ban
Published 21/03/14

A PARK warden was chased and pulled from his vehicle after stopping a group of men from having a barbecue at a Henley beauty spot.

He poured water on their fire after the men ignored his warning that barbecues are banned in Mill Meadows.

Police were called after the incident on Sunday afternoon and arrested a man. The warden, a member of Henley Town Council’s parks team, approached the group of about 20 men of Asian appearance who had lit a fire with the intention of starting a barbecue.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: “The officer, pointing to the notices warning the public that barbecues are not allowed, politely but firmly told them to extinguish the fire and gave then 20 minutes in which to do so.

“They failed to comply with this simple request so the officer took matters into his own hands and, with the aid of two buckets of water and after 20 minutes had elapsed, extinguished the fire.

“This led to the operative being chased to the council’s utility vehicle as he made his escape. He was pulled from the vehicle.”

Mr Kennedy said it was the first in 10 years that a member of council staff had been physically assaulted. “The operative has not been injured in any way and was in work on Monday as normal,” he said.

“There are lessons to be learned from this event and the parks manager is looking into revising our risk assessment with regard to dispute resolution to avoid this kind of incident, and the potential consequences, from happening in the future.”

It is believed some of the men involved swapped items of clothing to prevent the man who pulled the warden from his vehicle being identified by police. However, the man who was arrested admitted assault and was issued with an £80 fixed penalty notice.

Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said the warden had been doing his duty in informing the men that barbecues were not allowed.

“I’m enormously pleased that he wasn’t injured,” he said. “For him to be chased and pulled out of his truck is unforgivable and shocking and I hope something like this never happens again.”

Barbecues have always been forbidden on Mill Meadows and the council extended the ban to the Marsh Meadows during the heatwave in August, saying disposable barbecues could set fire to the dry grass.

The council decided to make the ban permanent following complaints from residents about cooking smells and scorch marks on the ground.

However, in February, councillors discussed lifting the ban in Marsh Meadows and to allow people to cook their food in a specially designated barbecue area. The council is considering putting down temporary paving slabs with heatproof bins for disposing of hot coals for use this summer.

If this proves successful, it may consider building permanent public barbecues similar to those found in many Australian towns and cities.

Published 21/03/14

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