DORSET Council has banned the use of disposable barbecues and camp fires at all of its country parks and other ‘high risk’ sites it owns.

An interactive map has also been compiled by the council to show the areas where disposable barbecues are prohibited, which now includes Moors Valley Country Park, Avon Heath Country Park, Durlston County Park and Thorncombe Woods.

This time last year hundreds of acres of forest and heathland were destroyed at Wareham Forest, in a fire thought to have been started by a disposable barbecue or a camp fire.

Earlier this week a wildfire prevention campaign was launched by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service urging people to bring a picnic, not a barbecue, to open places like Wareham Forest.

Yesterday, Dorset Council confirmed it had gone one step further after its cabinet voted to back the disposable barbecue ban.

Cllr Ray Bryan, portfolio holder for the environment, said: “We decided to ban all disposable barbecues on any land we actually own that is in high risk areas.

“We are also looking at working with a number of people as to how we can educate the public on the dangers of disposable barbecues.

“We are not trying to ruin their fun, what we are trying to do is come up with a constructive way which we can all work together to try and get the message across that disposing of a barbecue is absolutely crucial if we wish to protect the environment which we live in.

“The message we need to get across is they need to dispose of the barbecue in a safe manner.

“Just seeing the embers go grey doesn’t solve the problem.

“We need to dispose of them in a safe manner and we are hopeful people will take this onboard.

“In our own area we can ban them, in other areas we have to give guidance to people in the hope they will respect what we are trying to say to them.”

Cllr Bryan stressed he did not want to see a repeat of the damage done to Wareham Forest.

Initially the council is not seeking to introduce any new legislation that will result in penalties for those contravening the ban, rather it is a policy decision as landowner – meaning failure to comply would mean people being asked to leave.

However, The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act) Schedule 2 already prohibits activities including ‘a person cannot light or tend a fire or undertake any act which is likely to cause a fire’.

While the majority of heathland in Dorset is open access land, Dorset Council says people could be prohibited from accessing it for 72 hours for failing to comply with Schedule 2 provisions.

This also applies wherever the relevant national park authority oversees access rights under the CROW Act.

Meanwhile, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 any person found to have intentionally or recklessly caused destruction of damage to land designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) can already be prosecuted and fined.

A Dorset Council spokesman said: “As part of the agreement to raise awareness of this, eye catching signage is being installed over the next few weeks at key fire risk locations and our digital communication campaign began yesterday to coincide with the first anniversary of the devastating Wareham Forest Fire.

“This joint campaign will continue throughout the season.

“As part of this work we are working with many partners across Dorset to support the joint campaign on banning of disposable BBQs and campfires on their land and are offering the signage to them to ensure there is a clear and consistent message across Dorset.

“We’ve also forged good relationships with supermarkets and local retailers on where and how they market the sale of disposable BBQs.

“Through Litter Free Dorset we are offering disposable BBQ safety information to retailers to place in store at their point of sale areas.”

Councillor Mohan Iyengar, portfolio holder for tourism, leisure and culture at BCP Council said: “We work closely with other organisations to promote the safety messages around having a BBQ and the associated risks, and we encourage the public not to use them for open fires on our beaches or any of our council-owned land.BBQ’s are illegal on all our heathlands and it’s clearly signposted on our beaches that they’re not permitted before 6pm.

“This year, as part of our seasonal response plan we are piloting electric BBQs along the promenade which will reduce the number of disposables. Our security patrols will also take firm action against open fires and disposable barbecues left in a dangerous manner.”