Disposable barbecues have been banned across a swath of open countryside in Hampshire and Dorset after a campaign led by the New Forest national park authority.
The move to ban the sale of disposable barbecues began last May in the wake of a catastrophic fire in Wareham Forest, Dorset, which burned slow worms and lizards alive and damaged more than 200 hectares (500 acres) of the site of special scientific interest. The fire was thought to have been caused by a disposable barbecue or a campfire.
Disposable barbecues are increasingly popular. In just one weekend last summer in the New Forest national park alone, rangers working with the fire service extinguished more than 60 unsafe barbecues, many of which had been left unattended.
After the Wareham Forest fire, Streets Ironmongers, a local business in Brockenhurst, removed disposable barbecues from sale. More than 50 retailers, including farm shops, corner stores and the national supermarket chains Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury joined the campaign to remove them from sale across the national park.
Landowners and charities have responded by banning barbecues and fires on their land, including Forestry England, the National Trust and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. The ban has been extended to New Forest crown land and Hampshire county council’s Lepe country park.
Dorset council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council have put in new measures to control the use of disposable barbecues and have asked local retailers to withdraw them from sale.
The New Forest national park authority is calling on the entire area to become a barbecue-free zone. But according to the authority, a number of supermarket chains are continuing to sell disposable barbecues in prominent displays.
More than half of the woods and heaths of the New Forest national park are internationally protected because of their rare wildlife, but its heaths are extremely vulnerable to fires during prolonged dry spells. As well as killing fauna and flora, wildfires also cause the release of carbon.
Miles King, the chief executive of the charity People Need Nature and a Dorset resident, said: “It’s good to see the New Forest national park taking this action, ignoring the confused and weak advice from the government in the new Countryside Code.
“Disposable barbecues are the ecological equivalent of firebombs when used in naturally dry habitats like heathlands. Any retailers who still sell these bombs can forget about claiming green credentials for themselves.
“We’re in a climate and ecological emergency and we just can’t afford to risk our vulnerable wildlife and their habitats from being torched because someone wants to cook an alfresco sausage.”
Steve Avery, the executive director of strategy and planning at the New Forest national park authority, said: “We still need your help to make the whole of the national park barbecue-free. Please ask your local store to stop selling disposable barbecues and to display a campaign poster available to download online.”
But the New Forest national park authority said that some stores in the region continued to sell disposable barbecues and urged people to join their campaign to stop them. A spokesperson said: “Sadly, many stores such as Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi are still stocking them with front-of-store displays.”
Aldi had no comment to make, Lidl did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment and Morrisons said: “We have removed disposable BBQs from our New Milton store this year in response to the New Forest park authority’s campaign.”
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