By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
PEOPLE could be fined £90 on the spot if they are caught with a lit barbecue or bonfire on the moors above Greater Manchester.
Oldham and Tameside Councils are jointly proposing to introduce two public space protection orders (PSPO) on land spanning Saddleworth Moor and Marsden Moor.
It would mean people will be banned from taking barbecues, fireworks and sky lanterns into the area.
Anyone found to be breaching the orders would be punished with a £90 on the spot fine or face prosecution through the courts.
Apocalyptic fires last June and July forced residents to be evacuated from their homes in Carrbrook as the moors blazed for more than three weeks.
At its peak, the fire covered an area of seven square miles and saw the army deployed to support firefighters tackling the emergency.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service believe the cause was arson after someone was spotted lighting a bonfire on the moors near Stalybridge.
Councillors say the wildfires killed animals, drained firefighting resources and cost the public hundreds of thousands of pounds.
This Easter, more fires raged across the moors in Uppermill, Diggle, Delph, Denshaw and Marsden, with fire services fighting the flames for days.
The PSPOs are designed to prevent a repeat of similar catastrophes and are due to go out to a formal public consultation.
Signs will be put in place around the designated area to advertise the proposed orders.
There are exemptions for private residential areas but any land that has a public right of way or public access is included as part of the PSPO. If approved, they would be in place for three years.
Cllr Arooj Shah, Oldham’s deputy leader and cabinet member for social justice and communities, said: “Unfortunately over the last few years several huge fires, some which have been started by discarded barbecues, have put lives and property at risk.
“We believe animals have died in the fires and it will take years for the moorland to return to normal.
“Fighting the fires also tied up resources that could have been needed elsewhere, in the process costing hundreds of thousands of pounds. That can’t go on.
“We aren’t trying to be killjoys – we want people to go out and enjoy our countryside and just to act responsibly. If they don’t then they could face action.”
The decision to implement the orders is being backed by the opposition Liberal Democrat group in Oldham.
Cllr Garth Harkness, who represents Saddleworth North, called on drones to be used to enforce the orders.
He said: “Like many residents, I have been distressed to witness the devastating fires on Saddleworth and Crompton Moors over Easter and before that.
“Some are doubtless ignited by natural causes, but, in all too many cases, they are the malicious work of arsonists or caused by irresponsibility on the part of day-trippers using portable disposable barbeques or discarding cigarettes on the moor.
“I worry that, now we are in summer, we are likely to see a further onset of moorland fires and so it is imperative we maintain our vigilance and look to strengthen our powers in combatting criminal activity.
“I believe we need to have a PSPO as it represents one more legal tool to help combat the irresponsible firelighters on the moor or those who are down-right criminal.
“The Oldham Liberal Democrats would like to see the Council, with its partners in the police, Peak District Park Authority and United Utilities, working together to enforce these orders, including using drones on the moor.
“I for one do not want to see another summer of our beautiful moorlands ablaze and the frightening prospect of a fatality.”
Oldham and Tameside Councils will carry out a formal consultation on the proposed PSPOs from July 8 to August 5.
Councillors, stakeholders and residents will be able to submit comments.
Copies of the proposed PSPOs and Notices of Proposed Orders will be found on the websites www.oldham.gov.uk/saddleworthPSPO and www.tameside.gov.uk from July 8.
Any representation or objection to the proposed PSPOs must be in writing and sent to: Director of Legal Services, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1UL before 5 August, 2019.