SHOPPERS have been urged to boycott Co-op stores in the New Forest after they defied calls to take disposable barbecues off the shelves to cut the risk of fire.
There has been mounting anger at the chain over its refusal to stop selling disposable barbecues, which has been urged by public bodies including the national park authority and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
It even prompted Lymington councillor Jack Davies to call on people to stop spending their money at local Co-op outlets.
NPA chair Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: “The call for a boycott of the Co-op’s shops is a sign of how strongly people feel about this issue.
“The Co-op should urgently think again. They are seriously out of step with public opinion.”
However, a spokeswoman for the retail chain said it had held discussions with the NPA and was happy to endorse its message that disposable barbecues were not allowed in the New Forest – but would continue to offer them for sale.
She said: “Following positive conversations with the New Forest National Park Authority, we have ensured that, for several weeks, their ‘BBQs Are Banned in New Forest’ signage is clearly displayed in our stores within the area.
“Co-op provides clear and prominent instructions on the packaging of our instant barbecues to ensure customers know how to use them in a safe and responsible manner, which is extremely important.
“Safety instructions are repeated multiple times on the pack and we also state very clearly that the barbecues shouldn’t be used in prohibited areas, both on pack and in the stores with shelf-edge signs.”
She added: “Co-op instant barbecues are bought and used safely and responsibly by hundreds of thousands of customers every year as they provide a popular and convenient method for customers to enjoy BBQ food.”
As reported in the A&T, three villages – Ashurst, Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst – and 18 stores are currently disposable-barbecue-free, after the NPA’s call for an outright sales ban.
It launched the plea, also with the support of Forestry England, earlier this summer following a large number of disposable barbecues being used as spells of hot, dry weather put the New Forest at extreme risk of fire.
Multiple blazes have had to be tackled by firefighters and numerous areas of scorched earth have been left across protected habitats despite the fire warning being in place.
Cllr Davies, a district councillor for Pennington, said shoppers should hit the Co-op in the pocket because of its unwillingness to get on board.
He said: “Companies don’t just have a responsibility to their shareholders, they have a responsibility to us as well.
“By selling disposable barbecues in the New Forest, Co-op are refusing to take responsibility for their actions and putting our unique environment at risk.
“If Co-op won’t see sense and do the right thing, we have to hit them where it hurts – the wallet.
“That’s why I’m calling for a district-wide boycott.”