A CAMPAIGN to ban disposable barbecues has been launched by the national park authority.
The NPA has also appealed for retailers across the district to copy Streets Ironmongers in Brockenhurst, which has removed disposable barbecues from sale.
It comes in the wake of barbecues being left on the Forest and numerous small blazes having to be put out – despite an official warning the area is currently at extreme risk of fires – and a huge forest fire destroying 220 hectares of heathland in Wareham recently.
NPA chairman, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: “The national park is one of the best places for wildlife in the UK and is extremely fragile.
“In nearby Dorset we have seen more than 220 hectares of rare heathland and forest at Wareham Forest devastated by fire, likely to have been caused by disposable barbecues, and the same could happen here.
“It has been really upsetting to see the photos of dead lizards, slow worms burnt alive and all the trees and heathland destroyed. There is also a huge concern here that New Forest ponies and cattle could be put at risk.”
He praised Streets, adding: “We’re calling on all retailers to do the right thing and remove them from sale, and for all landowners to keep sending out clear messages; fires and barbecues are totally inappropriate at any time in a protected national park.
“With the impacts of climate change, we expect to see more dry, hot weather so it’s even more important that we see these changes now and for the future of the national park.”
Streets Ironmongers owner Alan Bartlett said: “We made our decision to withdraw them from sale after seeing how dry the Forest was and the damage the instant barbecues do to the grass and how that can easily turn into a major fire like we have seen at Wareham.”
Mr Bartlett, who is also treasurer of the Brockenhurst Business Association, added: “Also living here above the shop and seeing the fire engine go out two or three times a day shows how bad it is.”
The New Forest Marque local produce scheme is also contacting its members asking them to remove disposable barbecues from sale.
Bruce Rothnie, New Forest deputy surveyor for Forestry England, said: ‘Forestry England has repeated warnings to the public about the high risk of wildfires and confirmed that fires of any type, including disposable barbecues are not permitted on the land we manage at this time.
“We’ve also closed all of our barbecue facilities at popular visitor spots in the New Forest.
“It’s shocking that a small, but dangerous, minority are ignoring the warnings and our staff have reported a steady increase in the number of people using barbecues or lighting campfires.
“In the New Forest alone, over one weekend, our team of rangers and keepers spoke to hundreds of people and extinguished more than 60 barbecues and campfires.”
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service station manager Andy Weeks said: ‘We urge the public to follow the guidance and refrain from using barbecues and having campfires in forests, parks or any public area due to the risk of wildfires at this time.
“It’s vital for everybody to stay alert and report any incidents as soon as possible. If you see a fire, get to a place of safety and call 999 immediately so we can put it out before it does any significant damage.
“We will continue to work with our partners to raise awareness of this serious threat, to protect our community, precious nature sites and wildlife.”
Meanwhile New Forest district councillor Janette Duke has also started an online petition calling on portable barbecues to be banned from the Forest.
She said her cause is supported by New Forest East MP Julian Lewis, adding: “I would like to see this brought before Parliament so measures might be put in place to help protect our habitat and environment from careless use and disposal of single use portable barbecues.”
The petition, which currently has 529 signatures, can be found at www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-ban-the-sale-of-single-use-disposable-barbecues-in-the-uk