New Forest fire risk: Southern Co-op stops selling instant BBQs, but Group continues

The National Park Authority has asked retailers in the area to pull disposable barbecues from their shelves

After officials raised concern over the fire risk from disposable barbecues in the New Forest, Southern Co-op has removed the items from its food stores.

The New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) has called on shops in the area to stop selling the items following a spate of fires.

NPA chair, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, said: “We would like to thank all the retailers who care about the impact these barbecues have on the forest and have taken them off sale. We would also like to thank all the residents who have backed this move and gone out of their way to go and have a chat with their local store.”

The NPA has also called for a continued ban on fires and other barbecues in the open countryside of the national park.

Independent retail society Southern Co-operative stopped selling disposable barbecues in Southern stores, as well as its Welcome franchise stores in Marchwood, Brockenhurst and Ashurst.

“Our actions have already been praised by the New Forest National Park Authority and the Leave the BBQ at Home campaign,” Mark Smith, Southern CEO, told reporters .

But not all shops have complied with the request to remove disposable barbecues from sale, with the Co-op Group being one retailer still selling them.

A Group spokesperson told newspapers: “Co-op has worked with the NPA and displayed the organisation’s ‘BBQs Are Banned in New Forest’ signs in stores.

“[We] provide clear and prominent instructions on the packaging of our instant barbecues to ensure customers know how to use them in a safe and responsible manner.

“Safety instructions are repeated multiple times on the pack and we also state very clearly that the barbecues shouldn’t be used in prohibited areas, both on the pack and on shelf-edge signs.”

Mr Crosthwaite-Eyre said: “It is vital we continue to urge retailers to join in the campaign to keep the forest safe this summer.

“Our woods and lowland heathland are of global environmental importance for wildlife and their peaty soils store carbon and help reduce climate change,” he said. “Wildfires at this time of year would cause immense damage to the ground and the rare flora and fauna. We must protect them from unintentional fires caused by carelessness.”

Cllr Jack Davies – who sits for the Lib Dems on Pennington District Council in Hampshire – criticised the Group’s decision in the local press. He told reporters: “By selling disposable barbecues in the New Forest, Co-op are refusing to take responsibility for their actions and putting our unique environment at risk.”

Mark Smith added: “We fully appreciate people’s concerns around the use of disposable barbecues which is echoed by our local store colleagues.

“While it is not always important for our customers to be aware of the difference between us and Co-op Group, we want local people to be absolutely clear that Southern Co-op takes a genuine concern in issues they raise with us and will act to protect our communities wherever possible.”

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