Ban on camp fires being considered for Cairngorms National Park
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An outright ban on starting fires in the Cairngorms National Park is one option on the table in a bid to deal with the rising threat of a ‘ecological disaster’ caused by a wild blaze.
Three options for fire management byelaws varying in their severity from the blanket ban to no byelaws at all will be under consideration tomorrow by park authority board members meeting in Grantown.
It is unclear how barbecues would be affected but park officers have said there will be more information in general if and when proposals go out for public consultation.
The paper has been drawn up by Cairngorms National Park Authority chief executive Grant Moir who warns: “Wildfire risk has been increasing in the park and there is a need to consider all potential solutions to reducing risk.
“There is a need to protect people, nature and property.”
CNPA board members are being asked to agree an approach to a public consultation on whether to take forward a fire management byelaw for the national park and what that fire management byelaw should include or cover.
If the board members agree to proceed with this consultation, then the results will be taken back to the board with a recommendation on the next steps in mid-2024.
The options up for discussion are:
• year round fire management byelaw which would mean that even at times of lower fire risk it would not be possible to have a fire in the national park.
• Time limited fire management byelaws would only apply at times of high fire risk and is more ‘permissive’ of fire at other times. Different areas of the national park could also be covered by different fire risks.
• No byelaw – this would involve the least change and carrying on as at present but with increased communication and education with the intent that this will lead to a reduction in fire incidents and the risk of wildfire in the national park.
Mr Moir states in his paper: “The Cairngorms National Park is home to 19,000 people and visited by around two million people each year.
“It is home to 25 per cent of the rare and endangered species and the Cairngorms has over half of Scotland’s semi-natural pine woodland.
“A large wildfire in the Cairngorms could be an ecological disaster and could impact significantly on people’s property and livelihoods.”
Any public consultation would start in January and run for eight weeks.
There have already been large wildfires this year just outside the national park boundary at Daviot and Cannich.
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When could a ban come in if agreed?
The earliest a byelaw could come into operation would be in 2025.
Following the public consultation, a paper with the results and a recommendation would have to be taken to the CNPA board in mid-2024.
If it is agreed by the board members to proceed with a byelaw then it would have to be formally consulted upon.
Scottish Ministers would then require to confirm the restrictions.
If approved, Mr Moir states: “If byelaws are taken forward every ranger employed by the national park authority would be empowered to enforce the byelaws.
“This will mean ensuring training and preparation in advance of any byelaws coming into force.
There will also need to be a consideration of whether the current resource base is adequate to ensure that there is a threat of enforcement in the park.”
There have been 219 active fires dealt with by the park authority’s rangers so far this year and some 678 fire remain sites.
What is the current situation on starting fires?
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states: “Wherever possible, use a stove rather than light an open fire. If you do wish to light an open fire, keep it small, under control, and supervised – fires that get out of control can cause major damage for which you might be liable.
"Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods, farmland or on peaty ground or near to buildings or in cultural heritage sites where damage can be easily caused. Heed all advice at times of high risk. Remove all traces of an open fire before you leave.”
The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Section 56) also states that 'any person who lays or lights a fire in a public place so as to endanger any other person or give him reasonable cause for alarm or annoyance, or so as to endanger any property, shall be guilty of an offence'.