A PETITION signed by more than 9,000 people calling for a nationwide ban on the sale of disposable barbecues has been presented to parliament by New Forest East MP Julian Lewis.
It was launched by New Forest residents Kate Collison and Cllr Janette Duke in the aftermath of a devastating fire at Wareham Forest in May which destroyed 470 acres of heath and woodland. Investigations later discovered 11 disposable barbecues at the scene.
Cllr Duke, who is a New Forest district councillor, said the petition and a campaign led by the national park authority had already led a number of local shop owners to stop selling disposable barbecues.
As reported in last week’s A&T, 18 shops within the Forest had already agreed to remove disposable barbecues from the shelves including all retailers in Ashurst, Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst.
The NPA campaign, which was launched three weeks ago, is supported by Forestry England and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Cllr Duke said: “I’m sure that people do not go into the Forest with mal intent to start fires but the fact remains that after use the foil casing is still very hot and so they cannot physically be removed if they do not have water to cool them. So they are abandoned to burn.”
Introducing the petition to parliament on Tuesday evening, Dr Lewis asked MPs to urge the government to support a UK wide ban on the sale of disposable barbecues.
He said: “Single-use barbecues are designed to be disposable but are causing great risk to the forest environment, and local laws and regulations to prohibit and restrict their use have proved extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.”
Dr Lewis said that as a proven cause of wild fires, disposable barbecues not only risked human life but also caused devastating damage to wildlife and natural habitats.
He continued: “Single-use disposable barbecues comprise a tin foil tray filled with impregnated ‘easy-light’ charcoal with a wire mesh over; are lightweight, can easily be carried to beauty spots, wild-life reserves, and beaches, and can be purchased for as little as £1.99 per unit.
“Chinese sky lanterns, which can pose a similar threat to wildlife and their habitat, were once seen as acceptable but are now recognised as irresponsible and dangerous.”
Speaking to the A&T, Dr Lewis praised the petition organisers for their coordinating the campaign.
He said: “This notion of prohibiting the use of single-use barbecues really seems to have struck a chord but because of the difficulty of policing local bylaws it does seem as if national legislation is necessary.”
Although he conceded any timeframe for change would be dependent “on the amount of pressure that could be brought to bear on parliament”, Dr Lewis added: “I can certainly say the issue seems to be catching the public’s attention.”
The MP confirmed he was working with New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne to push for a half-hour parliamentary debate on the issue which would be followed by a ministerial response.
As reported in the A&T, a minister has already rejected calls for disposable barbecues to be banned, with junior business minister Paul Scully said telling Sir Desmond recently: “There are no plans to ban their sale.”
However, the petition is supported by the national park authority in conjunction with its campaign to stop the sale of disposable barbecues by local retailers.
NPA chair Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre told the A&T: “Our campaign with retailers, communities and partners has shown the strength of feeling people have about this issue of disposable barbecues in the countryside.
“The national park is internationally protected because its wildlife and habitats are so rare and fragile but it could be so easily destroyed by fire.
“We are really pleased with the support for the ban and that people are motivated to take action to protect New Forest wildlife, communities and livestock.”