Councils Unite to Stop Moorland Fires

IN an effort to prevent a repetition of last summer’s terrible moorland fires, Tameside Council is poised to become the first Greater Manchester authority to introduce a public space protection order (PSPO).

The measure, which is being drawn up in partnership with Oldham, would prohibit people from taking items such as barbecues, campfires and Chinese lanterns onto the moors. A public consultation will open on Monday, July 8.

Last year’s fires, which broke out on June 24, raged for days. Around 4,500 acres (18 sq km) of land were destroyed, and many farm animals were killed. In Carrbrook, 150 residents had to be evacuated and more than 100 soldiers were mobilised to assist firefighters from 15 services. The smoke affected air quality across the north west of England and could be seen from space.

The PSPO, if adopted, would prohibit activities identified as carrying a significant risk of causing wildfires, such as lighting a barbecue, building or lighting any kind of fire, and lighting fireworks or having Chinese lanterns carrying an open flame.

To contravene any of these regulations would be a criminal rather than a civil offence. Penalties would range from a £100 fine to £1,000 (following a summons).

Cllr Allison Gwynne, Tameside Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “Although the 2018 fires were the worst in living memory, moorland fires are not uncommon. They take place every year, and while some may be started deliberately, there’s strong evidence to suggest that most are the result of thoughtless behaviour.

“The public space protection order would give us another means of preventing these fires which cause so much damage and misery, and put the members of the emergency services in danger.

“I believe the PSPO, used alongside education, would help us to significantly reduce the number of moorland fires.”

Cllr Arooj Shah, deputy leader of Oldham Council, added: “The moors above Saddleworth are home to some of the most beautiful countryside in England.

“Unfortunately, over the last few years several huge fires, some which have been started by discarded barbecues, have put lives and property at risk.

“The proposed PSPOs are very simple – they would be in place to stop people taking barbecues onto the moors We aren’t trying to be killjoys – we want people to go out and enjoy our countryside and just to act responsibly.”

The consultation period will run until August 5. Copies of the proposed PSPO and Notices of Proposed Orders will be available on the Tameside Council website from Monday, July 8.

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