Published: Tuesday, 10 August 2021

The Council is introducing new rules to stop people from lighting fires, including barbeques, in some of Oxford’s most precious open spaces.

The new rules are to stop people from lighting fires, including barbeques, 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 these 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.

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

A new PSPO

The City Council will 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 the parks 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.

The PSPO will take effect from Wednesday 11 August. New signs will be erected in the parks covered by the PSPOs to inform the public that the rules are in force.

The introduction of the PSPOs follows public consultation undertaken in June on the proposals.

Existing PSPOs

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.

“We need to protect Oxford’s parks and open spaces from damage so that they can continue to be a source of enjoyment for all residents and a safe environment for wildlife. Damage caused by fires and bottle-digging has been very detrimental to several of our green spaces and this PSPO gives us some teeth to help ensure that they will be protected. Large open fires have been a particular problem in some parks with people ripping material to burn from nearby trees and leaving large amounts of litter around them – this is dangerous for the wildlife, and miserable for the walkers and picnickers.”

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthier Oxford

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