Recent wildfires across the country have prompted calls from the NFU urging the public to be more responsible when out enjoying the countryside.
With COVID-19 lockdown restrictions being eased, thousands of people have been flocking to popular rural locations and beauty spots, resulting in an increase in the use of disposable barbecues.
However, barbecues being discarded has seen hundreds of acres of moorland and forestry in Lancashire, Staffordshire and elsewhere across the country engulfed by wildfires.
The NFU not only wants the public to act responsibly but is calling on local authorities to start issuing Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). These are intended to deal with particular nuisance or problems in specific areas by imposing conditions on the use of that area to ensure people can enjoy public spaces safely.
Local Authorities have the power to implement a PSPO under Sections 59 to 75 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Fire Severity Index:
Following wildfires in 2018, including a significant blaze on Saddleworth Moor, then Secretary of State Michael Gove assured the NFU that a full review of the Met Office’s Fire Severity Index (FSI) would be carried out due to the FSI map indicating FSI level 4 (= very high fire severity), meaning that public rights of way and Countryside and Rights of Way land were still open as open access land can only be closed when the FSI reaches 5. We understand that this was carried out in 2019 but we are yet to see the outcome of that review.
Above: A field set alight during dry, hot weather.
NFU access policy adviser Mhari Barnes said:
“Due to the prolonged dry weather, we are seeing an increase in wildfires which have a significant impact on farmland and wildlife. Some of these fires are caused by visitors using disposable BBQs irresponsibly."
“The NFU would like to see local authorities start issuing Public Space Protection Orders that deal with problems in a specific area by imposing certain conditions such as a ban on naked flames.
“We are also calling for the full results of the Fire Severity Index review to be published which was carried out following the wildfires of 2018.”
More from NFUonline:
- What does a recent High Court decision mean for diverting public rights of way?
- Coronavirus: Guidance on public rights of way
- NFU gatepost signs: Order your signs here
- Public support for food standards bolstered as 350,000 sign NFU petition
- Coronavirus: Advice for NFU members
- NFU guidance on handling large volumes of job enquiries
- Pick For Britain: Post your job vacancies now
- NFU intervenes in EU Bayer hearing on behalf of British farmers