For more than 18 months, investigative reporter KEN BENNETT has highlighted a campaign to help protect the nation’s prized moorland heritage at Dovestones.

A FRUSTRATED community champion has described a month-long consultation over plans to curb illegal moorland fires as “too little too late.”

Dr Andrew Taylor’s criticisms come as Oldham and Tameside councils launched a major consultation this week asking residents their views on the introduction of two Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) to cover an area that straddles both local authorities.

Under the terms of the orders people will be banned from taking barbecues, fireworks and sky lanterns into the area.

And if the PSPOs are introduced, anyone found to be breaching the terms of the orders would be committing an offence and liable to a fixed penalty notice of £90 or prosecution through the court.

Dr Taylor is chair of the authoritative Greenfield and Grasscroft Residents Association, which covers Dovestone reservoir - a magnet for visitors and day trippers.

And, as a senior member of Oldham Mountain Rescue Team, he was on the front line battling last year’s horrific moorland fires across Saddleworth and Tameside.

He cited a move by Kirklees Council who introduced a PSCO within days of a fire on Marsden Moor, which caused the National Trust more than £250,000 damage.

“It’s good to hear our local authority is considering fines for barbecues or fire setting — but sad that it’s months after West Yorkshire,” he said.

“Worse still is we will have a consultation period that will render the whole idea pointless for this year as it misses the whole of the summer - just when we can expect more irresponsible behaviour.

“Who would be against protecting the moorland?” he asked,

“Surely this is a relatively emergency situation and consultation is irrelevant. If consultation were necessary then it should have been started during the winter months so the penalties were in place at the appropriate time.

“While continued improvements in monitoring, reducing and handling the fire risk situation are genuinely taking place this is surely too little too late?

“As ever, the main reason given for inadequate responses is that of lack of funds. Surely it is incumbent on those with responsibilities over this area to raise funds from whatever source?”

And he referred to a series of “boots on the ground” letters sent from the local community over the last 15 months requesting agencies and partners at Dovestones, Andy Burnham, Mayor of GMA, and Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, to visit the area, meet locals and examine more resources to tackle problems.

“If we could get them to see the problem first hand then perhaps they could influence the financial situation,” Doctor Taylor declared.

“Meanwhile our barbecuing morons have a penalty free summer ahead of them ... the threat of being fined should arrive with the snow.”

MP Debbie Abrahams says she recently visited Dovestones with the RSPB.

“The government need to recognise their responsibilities in ensuring adequate resources are made available to protect Dovestones as part of the national park, “ she said.

“It can’t fall on the shoulders of council, police and fire services who have endured such massive cuts.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure government

provide this support.”

A spokesman for Oldham and Tameside Councils: said: “The proposed PSPOs are the result of good joint working between Oldham and Tameside Councils.

“We are following due process so if introduced the PSPOs are legally sound. The consultation is a statutory requirement and must be undertaken toa comply with the legislation under which we are looking to make the orders.

“There needs to be real and genuine risks to the local area before a council can consider a PSPO.

“Our proposals have already received support from residents, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, the RSPB, The Women’s Institute and United Utilities, among others.

“We encourage people to take part in the consultation.”

The consultation periods runs until August 5 and councillors, stakeholders and residents will be able to submit comments on the proposals, which if introduced would remain in force for three years.

Copies of the proposed PSPOs and Notices of Proposed Orders for Oldham and Tameside can be found on the and websites now.

Details of how to submit a comment are included in the Notices of Proposed Orders and it is important that any person wanting to submit a comment follows the instructions on how to do this.