Published Wednesday 18 January 2023 at 16:29
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has launched a public consultation for a proposed Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to protect the environment and prevent wildfire devastation.
The PSPO will be adopted to ban activities on Moorland which carry a significant risk of causing a wildfire such as lighting barbeques, building or lighting campfires or camping stoves, lighting fireworks or setting off night sky paper lanterns.
It comes following the devastation caused on Darwen Moor in May 2020 where crews spent a week putting out wildfire spread over three miles caused by a disposable barbeque.
The impact of this wildfire meant that over 300 breeding birds were killed, endangered species were destroyed and the natural habitats for other species were ruined.
Cllr Jim Smith, Executive Member for Environment and Operations, said:
A wildfire is an uncontrolled, destructive fire that can quickly spread over moorland, destroying everything in its path. The effects can be devastating and can spiral out of control.
The impact of a wildfire is long lasting and the Moorland can take decades to recover. Moorland fires can easily develop into major incidents, which puts a huge strain on emergency services because they are one of the most challenging blazes to deal with. Moorland fires have a huge financial cost, as well as causing damage to wildlife, livestock, natural habitats, farmland and property.
They can leave permanent scars on our beautiful landscape, and cause air and water pollution which affects the health of our community.
Three councils will be involved in issuing the PSPO – Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Chorley Council and Bolton Council – all aiming to stop individuals or groups from committing anti-social behaviour, whilst allowing the responsible use of public spaces.
Breaching the proposed PSPO would be a criminal offence and could result in a fine of up to £1000.
The PSPO would last for three years initially, but could be renewed after a review and if successful, the PSPO prohibitions will be the same across all three Councils, to avoid any confusion along the geographical border.
Whilst some wildfires ignite naturally, by sun during a dry spell or a lightning strike, most are almost invariably caused by human action – either deliberate or accidental.
Back in 2018 the Winter Hill blaze took 41 days to bring under control with 100 soldiers and emergency services to put out the fire caused by anti-social behaviour.
It is important to note that the PSPO would not apply to any land or premises within the Restricted Area where there is no implied public access or right of way over the land or premises. For example, it would not apply to a resident who wanted to enjoy a barbeque in their own garden.
We are seeking the views of residents, businesses and agencies in relation to the proposed PSPO conditions, and the proposed area that it would cover. As a local resident, land or property owner, someone who works in the area, or other interested party, it is very important that you give us your views. Following this consultation, the Council will carefully consider the results before making the final decision.
The consultation will run for four weeks until 15th February 2023. You can have your say via the online form on the Council’s website.