Highbury Fields barbecue byelaw set to pass – but beef shows little sign of cooling off

PUBLISHED: 15:25 19 August 2019 | UPDATED: 18:07 20 August 2019

Smoky barbecues in Highbury Fields last year.

Smoky barbecues in Highbury Fields last year.

Vanessa Langsdale - DO NOT CREDIT IN PUBLIC!

A long simmering beef over barbecues in Highbury Fields shows little sign of cooling off, with a byelaw set to be voted through next month giving council officers the power to put them out.

Smoky barbecues in Highbury Fields last year.Smoky barbecues in Highbury Fields last year.

It will allow officers to "extinguish, seize or dispose of" barbecues in restricted areas and fine people who don't comply.

Local Green councillor and clean air campaigner Caroline Russell says the town hall should ban disposable barbecues in the space outright. But those on the other side of the argument say people without gardens should be free to have get-togethers outdoors and cook food in the process, and that at any rate barbecues are safe.

The council published the results of its survey in May, revealing 68 per cent of 636 participants supported a byelaw. It also found a "high level of anti-barbecue feeling" meant, on average, 31pc of people opposed all barbecues in Highbury Fields, something that wasn't being consulted on.

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Cllr Russell (Green, Highbury East) said: "The results were unclear because residents were struggling to be heard via questions that completely ignored the views of many users who prefer not to breathe a toxic soup of chemicals from burning barbecue fuel. Highbury Fields is a wonderful gathering place [...] but if we take being a clean air, healthy borough seriously we should be having picnics not barbecues."

But Cllr Webbe said: "That's fine for Caroline Russell to say that - I'm sure in her back garden she won't therefore have barbecues. Some people have gardens with barbecues. But the reality is [...] Public Health England has said there are no health implications with barbecues and, even if we wanted to ban all barbecues, that means private gardens too.

"The vast majority of Islington residents don't have a back garden or even an open space where they can have a family get-together."

The byelaw would help the council enforce restrictions introduced last year limiting use to a patch of grass on the west of the field, with a 9pm curfew. If approved, it must be signed off by new communities secretary Robert Jenrick.

Cllr Webbe does not accept she made comments originally attributed to her in this story about "wealthy" people having gardens. We stand by our record of the interview, but are happy to make Cllr Webbe's position clear.

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