‘Cleaner, greener, healthier’: Islington set to ban barbecues in its parks as part of efforts to tackle climate emergency

Dry grass on Highbury Fields last summer. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Barbecues are to be banned in Islington’s parks to protect the environment and reduce air pollution.

People have been allowed to fire up barbecues in the borough’s parks since 2011, but this was paused because of the pandemic.

In 2018, Islington Council limited the hours for barbecues in Highbury Fields after residents raised concerns.

London Fire Brigade also asked for a temporary ban on barbecues in 2018.

Last summer’s extreme heatwave saw an unprecedented number of grass fires, with 20 homes destroyed in the Essex village of Wennington when flames spread across scrubland.

Hackney Council banned barbecues in 2019 and they are currently allowed in just a handful of parks in London.

Environmental experts warned that “Islington is likely to receive visitors to the borough’s parks for a barbecue due to its excellent transport links and number of online publications that have promoted Islington as a destination to have a barbecue in a park”.

Before the pandemic, Islington was just one of four London councils allowing barbecues and saw extra litter caused by revellers, including disposable barbecues and food wrappers and complaints of anti-social behaviour.

Highbury Fields was a hotspot. It is Islington’s largest park and close to the Tube, and attracted more than 35 barbecues a day.

However, anyone now planning to cook up a feast in one of Islington parks is likely to get slapped with a fine.

The council estimates it will save £50,000 a year in security costs at Highbury Fields alone.

Air quality experts said exposure to air pollutants from barbecues is “relatively low” unless people are close by.

Tougher air quality rules will mean Islington will not meet them and needs to do more to improve air quality.

For people who still yearn for barbecued beef or sweetcorn there’s the chance to book an electric hotplate the council is testing at Paradise Park in Sheringham Road.

Cllr Rowena Champion, the executive member for the environment, air quality, and transport, said: “We’re determined to create a cleaner, greener, healthier borough for all, and reducing air pollution – which stunts children’s lungs and causes thousands of excess deaths in London every year – is key to achieving this.

“We’ve thought very carefully about our barbecue policy, and it’s clear that the use of solid fuel barbecues in our parks and open spaces would undermine our efforts to tackle the climate emergency and improve air quality.”

Opposition leader, the Greens’ Caroline Russell, backed the move.

She said: “I am so glad the council has listened to health worries, reviewed policy and concluded that charcoal BBQs are not okay in the park. It’s a good decision for health and climate goals.”

The ban will apply to coal and wood barbecues as gas appliances are already outlawed.