Published: Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Oxford City Council is launching a consultation to get the public’s views on proposals aimed at stopping people from making fires and digging for old bottles in some of Oxford’s parks and open spaces.

The City Council is proposing to introduce new rules to stop people from lighting fires – including BBQs – in Port Meadow, Burgess Field, Wolvercote Common, Rivermead Nature Reserve, Angel and Greyhound Meadow, and South Park.

Port Meadow and Wolvercote Common are both a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC); and Burgess Field is a nature reserve.

All the open spaces have been damaged by fires in the past. The fires have burnt the grass and scorched the ground, which can take years to recover. All the parks and open spaces will continue to welcome picnics.

The new rules will not target all Oxford’s parks and open spaces. Instead, they will focus on sites where the City Council has evidence that fires have caused damage in the past. Similar rules have been already been implemented by the New Forest national park authority after a fire in Wareham Forest in Dorset – which was thought to have been started by a disposable barbecue or campfire - burned slow worms and lizards alive and damaged more than 500 acres of the site of special scientific interest

Separately, the City Council is also proposing to introduce new rules to stop people from digging holes to search for old bottles in Port Meadow. The practice has seen large and damaging holes dug in the protected meadow.

A new PSPO proposed

The City Council is looking to bring in a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to control both activities. The PSPO will enable City Council officers to issue fines of £100 to people who are causing damage to Oxford’s park by making fires or digging for old bottles. However, the City Council’s anti-social behaviour policy states that officers will seek to resolve cases at the lowest level of intervention, for example by talking to the individuals in the first instance.

Public consultation underway

The City Council has launched a consultation on the proposals to give Oxford residents the opportunity to have their say. The consultation runs until 28 June.

To take part, visit The City Council is aiming to make a decision on whether or not to implement the new PSPO at the start of July.

There are existing PSPOs covering alcohol and dogs is parts of Oxford:

  • an Alcohol Disorder PSPO, which covers Oxford city centre and East Oxford, that creates an offence to refuse to stop drinking alcohol, or hand over any containers believed to contain alcohol, when required to do so by a police officer or authorised council officer
  • a Dog Control PSPO that requires owners to put their dog on a lead if required to do so by a police officer or authorised council officer, not to be in control of more than four dogs at the same time, remove their dog’s faeces and keep their dog out of children’s play areas.

More information about PSPOs in Oxford.

“Oxford’s parks and open spaces are well-used and much treasured parts of our city. We want to keep them that way but are concerned about the damage caused by fires and bottle-digging which can be particularly detrimental to the wildlife in our parks and green spaces.

“We want to hear what residents think of our proposals to protect these areas for all to enjoy."

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Safer, Healthier Oxford

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