Battle over Highbury Fields barbecues goes to court
Save Highbury Fields campaigners lodge a nuisance complaint at court over smoky grills
15 September, 2017 — By Koos Couvée
CAMPAIGNERS protesting against barbecues at Highbury Fields this week stepped up their fight with a pledge to take the Town Hall to court over the issue.
Lawyers acting for the Save Highbury Fields campaign issued Islington Council with a notice to “abate nuisance” caused by smoky grills at the park within 21 days, which expired this week.
The group has said it will now lodge a nuisance complaint at Highbury Magistrates’ Court as residents living near the Fields still complain of smoke.
The Town Hall has said its lifting in 2011 of a barbecue ban at the Fields – at 20 acres the borough’s biggest open space – remains the right policy. It is “happy to defend” the policy in court.
But a spokesman for the campaigners said: “Highbury Fields was bought in 1885 as the ‘lungs’ of St Mary’s Parish. How ironic it is that the council allows this level of smoke pollution when local people have so little green space.
“Support for a ban has spread much wider than immediate residents of Highbury Fields. As the number of days barbecues are in use rises, and with it pollution, litter and anti-social behaviour, many people feel they can no longer enjoy a trip to the Fields.”
Critics have accused campaigners of waging “class warfare”, because a ban would prevent residents without gardens from making the most of summer.
But Save Highbury Fields residents’ are carrying on the fight, saying sizzling grills cause high levels of harmful air pollution, disposable barbecues damage grass, and rubbish and leftover meat are strewn across the park on busy days.
More than 1,200 people have signed an online petition calling for a new barbecue ban. And the campaign has amassed a legal fund of more than £9,000 – with the average donor pledging £164 online. No court date has yet been set.
Environment chief Councillor Claudia Webbe said: “Allowing barbecues in our parks and open spaces has been incredibly popular.
“Most people living in Islington don’t have a garden, and this gives everyone a chance to enjoy a barbecue with friends and family in our open spaces.
“We believe our policy is right, and we stand by it and are happy to explain and defend it. We expect anyone who barbecues to do so responsibly, cleanly and safely, and we have taken extra steps at Highbury Fields, including barbecue disposal bins and extra patrols on busy days in the summer.”