Friday, 15 February 2019

Ban on barbecues in meadows likely to be made permanent

Ban on barbecues in meadows likely to be made permanent

THE ban on barbecues at a riverside beauty spot in Henley is likely to become permanent.

The town council, which is responsible for Marsh Meadows, is set to extend the ban it introduced as a safety measure during last August’s heatwave for at least the next 12 months.

Barbecues have always been forbidden on the neighbouring Mill Meadows and were only allowed on Marsh Meadows after the council installed a series of designated stumps in 2014.

The stumps, which came from trees felled at Fairmile cemetery, had a galvanised steel surface to prevent the risk of a blaze and heatproof bins were installed nearby.

But a meeting of the council’s open and green spaces sub-committee on Friday heard these proved popular. People also ignored the ban and used disposable barbecues on the grass or at the foot of trees.

Members agreed that a total ban would be easier to police and would reduce the amount of litter that was often left behind by visitors.

In report to the sub-committee, the council’s parks manager Karl Bishop, senior park warden Kyle Dowling and estates manager Becky Walker recommended a ban.

They said Marsh Meadows was one of few public parks to allow barbecues but this was all the more reason to ban them as people were often attracted from Reading and High Wycombe, where they are banned.

They said a ban would reduce complaints about smells and smoke from other people using the meadows and would also reduce the risk of dogs choking on discarded bones.

They also said there had been several incidents where people defecated in bushes because they could not be bothered to walk to the nearest public toilet at the Leichlingen pavilion in Mill Meadows.

With a ban in place anyone lighting a barbecue would be asked to put it out and the fire could be forcibly extinguished as a last resort. 

The report accepted that the staff and enforcement contractor Shaun Roberts could encounter more confrontations with the public but this would diminish once word of the new policy spread.

Councillor Kellie Hinton, who chairs the sub-committee, said: “It was to our detriment that we were the only park nearby to allow barbecues. Everyone was piling in precisely because we were the only mugs to allow it.

“Let’s not forget the completely unjustifiable amount of abuse we got on social media because people felt we were responsible for the disgusting behaviour of others — and at a time when our parks manager Gareth Bartle was, very sadly, dying.

“We found a disposable barbecue on Marsh Meadows only last weekend so we know it still happens even now. I’m not saying ban them forever but maybe for a while longer.”

Councillor Donna Crook said: “Perhaps all those people who are so desperate to allow them might like to volunteer to clean them up afterwards. Our parks services team do an incredibly hard job but just don’t have the manpower for it.”

Ilona Livarski, the council’s conservation warden, said: “Allowing barbecues also encourages the use of disposable plastic and given the environmental crisis this causes we should do what we can to discourage it. The barbecues can also cause damage to tree roots so all in all they’re simply a bad thing.”

Mr Bishop said: “The scale of unauthorised barbecues was a major issue and was doing silly amounts of damage to the meadow itself. We gradually saw fewer and fewer people turning up with barbecues after last year’s ban so the word will slowly get out.

“We’ve always been pretty hot on signage, which makes things easier for us. People have to walk past several signs saying they are banned so you can’t be accused of being unreasonable when you ask them to stop.”

A final decision will be made by the full council at its meeting on March 5.

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley or email letters

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