The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead is consulting on a proposal intended to reduce fire risk and environmental harm caused by barbecues and fires in council parks and other open spaces.
Cooking on a barbecue or other fire is already not allowed in these popular green spaces, as it poses a fire risk, can cause damage to grass and wildlife, and often leads to littering of food packaging, spent charcoal and disposable barbecues.
While most people always follow this simple rule and respect local parks, every summer there are those who light barbecues in parks, ignoring the signage and the Community Wardens, thereby causing a fire hazard and environmental harm.
The proposal is to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which will allow this rule to be enforced in parks and open spaces owned and managed by the Royal Borough. This means the Community Wardens or other authorised officers will have the option to issue a £100 fixed penalty notice to those who refuse to comply.
The council is holding a five-week consultation on the proposed order, from today (Wednesday 14 June) until midnight on Wednesday 19 July. If subsequently approved by Full Council, it will run for an initial three-year period.
The consultation asks people if they agree or disagree with the proposal, and offers the opportunity to make any further comments or suggestions, and share experiences of any other anti-social behaviour issues in public spaces.
For further details and to take part, please visit https://rbwmtogether.rbwm.gov.uk/public-spaces-protection-orders-pspo-consultation or use the public-access computers available at all local libraries, where staff are happy to help you get online if needed. If you require paper copies of the consultation documents, these are also available from libraries upon request.
Councillor Simon Werner, Council Leader and Cabinet member for Community Partnerships, Public Protection and Maidenhead, said: “This is a public consultation and the decision will be a matter for Full Council once feedback has been analysed and shared. I encourage everyone to have their say to help inform the future views, discussions and decision of councillors.”
Andy Aldridge, Community Safety Manager, said: “We’re so lucky in the Royal Borough to have many fantastic parks and open spaces, and these are often used by residents and visitors to enjoy summer picnics, which we welcome.
“As part of respecting parks – and thank you to the majority who do – we ask people not to light barbecues due to the increased fire risk and environmental damage. Unfortunately, there are a minority of people who ignore this rule because it’s not currently enforceable, unlike in some council areas. The harm and risk they cause is clear.
“As with our other PSPOs, its aim isn’t to hand out fines – its purpose is to support our Community Wardens in having effective conversations with those who break the rules, to encourage voluntary compliance, prevent repeated behaviour and ensure everyone follows the rules.
“Issuing fines will be at the officer’s discretion – and we hope they don’t have to hand out many – but having this option to enforce, and not being afraid to use it if needed, will help to change behaviour for the better – for the community and the environment. I would hope that our communities view this in a positive light and I encourage you to express your views in our consultation.”
Nicola Smith, East Hub Prevention Manager, Royal Berkshire Fire Rescue Service, said: “This year, the Met Office has predicted that 2023 will be hotter than 2022, and one of the warmest years on record. Last year, our service responded to a high number of outdoor fires and whilst our staff are well trained and equipped to handle these incidents, we want people across the county to play their part in reducing the demands on the Service, wherever possible.
“This summer, it’s vital everyone plays their part in helping prevent wildfires. If you’re spending time outside, we are urging people to think twice about having a barbecue when the ground is dry and fire can spread easily. If you do wish to have a barbecue, please ensure that this is only in designated areas and where it is safe to do so.
“If you do come across a fire in the open, get yourself to a safe place and call 999 immediately. Do not attempt to investigate or extinguish the fire yourself.”