The council’s policy on Highbury Fields barbecues is disappointing
18 October, 2019
‘Highbury Fields is known as a major barbecue destination’
• ISLINGTON Council’s decision to retain their barbecue policy for Highbury Fields was disappointing, particularly for residents living adjacent to the Fields who suffer the immediate consequences.
The reported justification by Cllr Claudia Webbe, the executive member for environment and transport, equalled the empty slogans used by Boris Johnson about the other “B” issue. Do they share the same scriptwriter?
In recent years growing concerns about barbecues have drawn attention to a complex and changing inter-relationship of issues.
Unfortunately the council clings to an outmoded, simplistic view of this problem and defends its current policy through an uncritical use of phrases such as “family gathering”, “our residents”, “inequality and poverty”.
Highbury Fields is known as a major barbecue destination. Barbecues are regularly organised on an industrial scale with professional caterers, promoted as big social” events “via social media that attract large groups of between 30 and 100 participants.
The sheer volume of people attending from far beyond Islington, with associated noise, intrusive music systems, parked cars and residual rubbish, bears no relation to family gatherings of local people to which Cllr Webbe has referred.
Things have moved on and the Fields have become an established barbecue destination for corporate entertaining because neighbouring boroughs do not allow barbecues in their public spaces.
An increase in toxic fumes, anti-social behaviour, late-night noise from partying and fleets of cars, and drug dealing opportunities, has unsurprisingly followed.
Few local families want to suffer the negative effects of all this and they avoid the Fields. For those residents like me, living on Highbury Crescent, in the front line, life was intolerable during the summer months. I was unable to open a window in my flat because the pollution was so severe.
Mindful of Cllr Webbe’s reference to “inequality and poverty”, I don’t have a garden, I’m not poor but I do feel unequal on this issue and resent contributing to the relentless clean-up operation and patrols which cost over £200,000 a year.
There is an urgent need for a new forum to be established through which residents and Islington Council can engage afresh with these issues and decide how best to deal with them.
Sadly there is a huge mismatch between the rhetoric used to defend the council’s current barbecue policy and the reality of behaviour on the Fields that now seems out of control.