Sunday, 21 April 2019

Barbecues ban in riverside meadows made permanent

Barbecues ban in riverside meadows made permanent

THE ban on barbecues at Marsh Meadows in Henley has been made permanent despite opposition by some councillors.

The town council, which is responsible for the riverside beauty spot, has voted to extend the ban that it introduced as a safety measure during last summer’s heatwave until 2020 at the earliest.

The majority of members agreed a blanket restriction was easier to enforce than allowing people to use only the designated tree stumps.

The stumps, which were installed in 2014 and removed last summer, had a galvanised steel surface to prevent the risk of a fire.

The council’s parks staff recommended scrapping them, saying people ignored the ban and used disposable barbecues which damaged grass and tree roots.

Members of the council’s open and green spaces sub-committee agreed and said that allowing barbecues led to more litter being dropped. However, Councillor Sam Evans disputed this, saying: “We were lucky enough to have some fantastic weather over the past couple of weeks and, amazingly for February, the rubbish was disgusting so I don’t think the ban will be particularly useful.

“The observations of a park ranger for one hour a day doesn’t tell you everything and the litter issue extends beyond barbecues.”

She suggested  that Shaun Roberts, a private security specialist whom the council contracted to enforce the ban, could be hired for longer periods in order to catch out more people.

Cllr Evans said: “My concern is that we’re saying we’ve done everything we can but we only had a park ranger for a certain period of time and there are opportunities to explore greater use of that.” Councillor Kellie Hinton said she had seen people trying to light barbecues during the recent warm spell and the parks services staff were dealing with the litter problem by installing more bins.

“It seems to be people from out of town so they’re bringing in no income and costing us a lot of money,” she said. 

“Having seen how effective the ban was last summer, I feel confident in moving to extend it. This has been around the committees and had enough debate.”

The motion went to a recorded vote at the request of Conservative Councillor Julian Brookes, who voted against it along with party colleagues Sara Abey, Will Hamilton, David Nimmo Smith, Laurence Plant and Cllr Evans.

Mayor Glen Lambert, Deputy Mayor Ken Arlett, and Councillors Donna Crook, David Eggleton, Stefan Gawrysiak, Sarah Miller, Ian Reissmann, Jane Smewing and Cllr Hinton, all members of the ruling Henley Residents Group, voted in favour, as did Independent Conservative Lorraine Hillier.

Barbecues have always been forbidden on Mill Meadows next door and a decision was made to ban them on Marsh Meadows in 2013 because of the fire risk. The stumps were introduced as a compromise the following year.

Some residents supported the idea but others complained about smells, smoke, litter and the choking risk to dogs from discarded bones.

There were instances of people urinating and even defecating in bushes instead of using the nearest public toilet at the Leichlingen pavilion in Mill Meadows.

Under the ban, anyone lighting a barbecue is asked to put it out and the fire can be forcibly extinguished as a last resort. There will be signage to prevent people from claiming they don’t know the rules.

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