Ban agreed for BBQs on Saddleworth Moor

People are now banned from taking barbecues, fireworks and sky lanterns on to Saddleworth Moor – and can be fined £100 if caught.

Oldham council has approved a public space protection order (PSPO) which would cover the moors above the borough, and span across Marsden Moor.

It is aimed at preventing a repeat of last year’s catastrophic fires which blazed for more than three weeks across June and July.

Despite repeated warnings from police and fire fighters about the risks, there have been several incidents reported so far this year of people continuing to take barbecues on to the moors.

The introduction of a legal order is a joint initiative with Tameside council, who are also signing off on their own PSPO.

It prohibits people starting bonfires, lighting barbecues, or setting off fireworks or sky lanterns on the moors.

On Monday night the cabinet also agreed to increase the amount they can fine people on the spot for breaching the order from £90 to £100 – the maximum allowed.

If offenders fail to pay the fine they could also face prosecution through the courts.

The cabinet meeting heard there had been one objection to the plans by Open Spaces Society, but the consultation showed people were mainly in support.

Councillor Arooj Shah, deputy leader of Oldham council, said: “Predominately all the local businesses and landowners are exempt from any of the PSPO order and hugely people are in agreement.

“I think that will be greatly welcomed by people and businesses and anybody who uses the moorland area, because we know the previous fixed penalty notices we didn’t feel were enough of a deterrent, and we feel this will be.”

The apocalyptic fires last summer forced residents to be evacuated from their homes as the moors smouldered.

At its peak, the fire covered an area of seven square miles and saw the army deployed to support firefighters tackling the emergency.

Councillors say the wildfires killed animals, drained firefighting resources and cost the public hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Council leader Sean Fielding added that he had recently attended a meeting at Dovestone Reservoir with partners and charities who work to protect the moorland and the natural habitat.

“It was clear that there is frustration from local people about the way a minority do misuse and abuse that incredibly valuable open space, and I’m glad that the council is taking steps to mitigate the damage and the impact that some of those irresponsible users have,” he said.

“I think that this is a good step, it’s what people have been calling for for a long time and I’m glad that we’ve also got the enforcement powers around fines to back this up.”

Local Saddleworth policing officer, Sergeant Neil Barker had also written to back the plans.

“In the last couple of years we have experienced significant fires on the Saddleworth Moors which has impacted upon Oldham, Tameside and West Yorkshire,” he wrote.

“The impact of these events has impacted upon emergency services. Mostly the GMFRS but also GMP.”

Sgt Barker said that he believed the PSPO will serve mostly as a preventable measure, but would also provide new powers to authorities.

“From a local police perspective this is supported and welcomed and will support other work which both statutory partners [and] third sector are working towards to help prevent crime and anti-social behaviour in and around Saddleworth Moors protecting this space for use by those who respect it,” he concluded.

There are exemptions for private residential areas but any land that has a public right of way or public access is included as part of the PSPO.

It will be in place for three years.

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