BBQ Free New Forest campaign to rid National Park of excess fire risk

Nominated and shortlisted for our Park Protector Award 2022, the brilliant BBQ Free New Forest campaign has been leading the way in tackling the fire hazard that is disposable BBQs. New Forest National Park Authority Grants Officer Fiona Wynne explains...

Tell us about your work with National Parks - what do you do, why is it needed.

The New Forest was designated a national park in 2005 to give this outstanding landscape the highest level of protection and to preserve it for the nation to enjoy for generations to come. As a National Park Authority, we are responsible for conserving and enhancing the national park and promoting understanding and enjoyment of the things that make it special. As well as our planning, nature conservation and public engagement responsibilities, our services include education, recreation, and archaeology.

The New Forest National Park is the smallest national park in the UK, yet it is home to more than 34,000 people and 2,500 local businesses. More than 16 million people live within a 90-minute drive and its ease of access make it one of the most visited national parks in the country. It has long been recognised as an exceptional landscape, shaped over millennia by the people who have lived and worked here. It is one of the most important areas for nature conservation in Europe and its open landscape, coastline and unique natural beauty have inspired generations of local people and visitors alike.

What impact has your work had in your National Park in 2021?

Businesses and organisations have continued to support a BBQ-Free New Forest in 2021, as part of our campaign launched in spring 2020. We called on retailers in and around the New Forest to remove disposable BBQs from sale and for a continued ban on fires and BBQs in the open countryside of the National Park. The New Forest is now a complete no BBQ and fire zone and more than 50 shops and outlets in and around the New Forest have taken disposable BBQs off sale. BBQs, camping stoves or anything with a naked flame are no longer permitted in car parks or any areas of the Forest managed by Forestry England, the National Trust, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and Wellow Parish Council. All BBQ facilities at Forestry England sites have been removed, and prominent ‘No BBQs’ signs are at Forestry England car parks and information points. As a result, wildfires in the New Forest decreased by 40% (compared with 2020) and were 30% less than 2019 before the pandemic. Waitrose first agreed to stop selling disposable BBQs in the New Forest National Park in 2020. Now Waitrose and Aldi have led the way nationally, taking the unprecedented decision to remove disposable BBQs from sale in all UK stores from March 2022 with Co-Op and recently Morrisons removing them from stores within a mile radius of national parks in the bid to stop wildfires. This will also cut down on waste by taking single-use BBQs off sale, with Aldi stating its ban would remove 35 tons of single-use waste packaging. With local New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis originally bringing the matter up in Parliament, High Peaks MP Robert Largan is now sponsoring a Private Members Bill to prohibit the use of disposable BBQs on open moorland and to give local authorities the power to ban the sale of disposable BBQs in their area.

How does it feel to be nominated and shortlisted for a Park Protector Award?

It’s amazing news. But protecting the New Forest National Park is a team effort and relies on partnership working. People have worked hard in difficult circumstances to be part of a ‘Team New Forest’. A huge thanks must go to our staff, members, partners, volunteers, and the wider community for their unwavering dedication to the National Park.

Why do you think National Parks are important?

Dubbed ‘Britain’s breathing spaces’, national parks were first established more than 70 years ago to help the country recover from the aftermath of the Second World War. This sought to protect our finest landscapes and promote public access for everyone’s heath and enjoyment. Today, following a global pandemic, and faced with climate and biodiversity crises, the opportunity for national parks to provide lasting solutions for people and nature has never been greater.

Find out more about BBQ Free New Forest campaign here, and read our peatlands statement which calls for a ban on disposable BBQs here.