Moors visitors face fines of £100 if caught lighting barbecues or fires

PEOPLE are now banned from taking barbecues, fireworks and sky lanterns on to Saddleworth Moor – and can be fined £100 if caught.Oldham Council has approved a public space protection order (PSPO) which covers the moors and spans across Marsden Moor.

It is aimed at preventing a repeat of last year’s catastrophic fires which blazed for more than three weeks across June and July, as well as fires earlier this Spring.

Despite repeated warnings from police and fire fighters about the risks, there have been several incidents reported so far this year of people taking barbecues on to the moors.

The introduction of a legal order is a joint initiative with Tameside Council, who are also signing off on their own PSPO.

It prohibits starting bonfires, lighting barbecues, or setting off fireworks or sky lanterns on the moors.

Oldham Council’s cabinet also agreed to increase the amount they can fine people on the spot for breaching the order from £90 to £100 – the maximum allowed. If offenders fail to pay, they could also face prosecution through the courts.

The cabinet meeting heard there had been one objection to the plans by Open Spaces Society but the consultation showed people were mainly in support.

The disastrous fires last summer forced residents in Carrbrook to be evacuated from their homes as the moors burned.At its peak, the fire covered seven square miles and saw the army deployed to support firefighters tackling the emergency.

Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding added he recently attended a meeting at Dovestone Reservoir with partners and charities who work to protect the moorland and the natural habitat.

“It was clear there is frustration from local people about the way a minority do misuse and abuse that incredibly valuable open space, and I’m glad the council is taking steps to mitigate the damage and the impact that some of those irresponsible users have,” he said.

“I think this is a good step, it’s what people have been calling for for a long time and I’m glad that we’ve also got the enforcement powers around fines to back this up.”

Local Saddleworth policing officer Sergeant Neil Barker had also written to back the plans, saying: “In the last couple of years we have experienced significant fires on the Saddleworth Moors which has impacted upon Oldham, Tameside and West Yorkshire.

“These events have impacted upon emergency services, mostly GMFRS but also GMP.”

Sgt Barker said he believed the PSPO will serve mostly as a preventable measure but would also provide new powers to authorities.

“From a local police perspective this is supported and welcomed and will support other work which both statutory partners [and] third sector are working towards to help prevent crime and anti-social behaviour in and around Saddleworth Moors,” he concluded.

There are exemptions for private residential areas but any land that has a public right of way or public access is included. The PSPO will be in place for three years.

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