BARBECUE bans and harsher penalties are being called for by councillors to protect the Saddleworth countryside after a spate of damaging fires.
Over Easter, blazes raged at Castleshaw top reservoir, Den lane quarry above Uppermill, and at Cote Lane, Delph as well as nearby Crompton Moor.
Now, in a bid to help prevent future incidents, Saddleworth Parish Council hopes to get a Public Spaces Protection Order in place as well as increase work with local agencies.
Cllr Pam Byrne explained: “Kirklees has put in place a Public Spaces Protection Order which covers a lot of things including lighting fires and the penalties for that.
“It means instant fines can be given on the spot for people lighting fires and barbecues.
“I contacted Oldham Council to ask about it but the existing one only covers Crompton Moor. I asked them to proceed to add Saddleworth to this order
“It has to go before cabinet but at least it is in motion.
“The penalty for arson can be life imprisonment. Fire is not a joke and we have got to get that through to people.”
Cllr Jamie Curley added: “If Kirklees can do it and do it quickly then I do not see why we can’t.
“But we also have to have the resources to enforce it. I have asked about funding for the Dovestone Marshals and we need to approach a lot of the partners involved.
“Visitors are coming from far and wide so we need to find funding to support us from other places. Our own budgets are stretched and we won’t be able to do it without help.”
But Cllr Alan Belmore said their council’s involvement must go beyond banning orders to address the crux of the issue through education.
He commented: “Just banning barbecues it not going to solve this problem.
“We need to look at what we as a council can do to help educate and inform people as this is our community and it is something we need to protect.
“Arson is ultimately a matter that will be dealt with by the police but we need to work on educating people to make sure they realise the dangers and the consequences.”
And Cllr Graham Sheldon added: “We have got to put stricter measures in place and we have got to be able to enforce it.
“I know people who have told others to put out barbecues and fires and they have been abused and ignored. It is not acceptable.
“It is destroying our countryside. We are trying to restore the land and then people destroy it again within hours.
“Sometimes these fires are started as a prank so people can see ‘I’ve seen my fire on the TV’ but it is just getting silly.”
The council agreed to Cllr Brian’s Lord’s suggestion of putting signs in its noticeboards across the community reminding people not to light barbecues and fires, and giving them a number to ring to report things.
Premier store in Greenfield is no longer selling disposable barbecues in a bid to help prevent fires.
It is likely a barbecue started the blaze at Eastergate near Marsden on Easter Sunday.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s Group Manager Phil Nelson said: “We have had anecdotal evidence from the local community to identify possible motorbikes and people going out on the moors causing anti-social behaviour.
“If you see any activity please ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
“Please enjoy the moors but be careful. Be vigil and when you are out and about.
“We have had reports of fires being started because of people taking barbecues onto the moor. Any naked flames cigarettes or lighters be careful with them. Be responsible when you are out.
“But we are working with our partners at Tameside Council and other partners to bring anti-social behaviour orders out.
“Hopefully, we can get those in place to stop people bringing barbecues and naked flames onto the moors to stop fires like this happening and the impact it causes.”