Monday, 7 May 2007

What are Camden Council up to now?

Good to see they have their priorities right. First, persecute dog owners, then this:

SUMMER BBQ BAN: Health and safety fears stop outdoor cooking by RICHARD OSLEY
Camden New Journal 3 May 2007

A SIZZLING row has erupted after Camden Council banned coal barbecues in public areas on health and safety grounds – affecting dozens of summer fetes and fayres.
Officials have been branded “fun-busters” after ruling that using coal is far too dangerous for untrained cooks.

Instead, the Town Hall has advised that organisers of all community festivals this summer should use professional caterers instead.

Keith Bird, who has run the barbecue at the annual Primrose Hill community festival in Chalcot Square for 20 years, has been told that he must go on a training course if he wants to continue in the role.

Even if he did pass the council’s tests, Mr Bird would have to use a gas alternative instead of traditional coals.

He said: “I’m not doing a test. I know how to run a barbecue. I’m not going to go on a course to tell me how to do it. Nobody has ever been hurt and we usually sell 500 or 600 items in a day. It’s another example of the nanny state telling us what we can and can’t do. This is ridiculous.”

The ban on coal barbecues applies to all public spaces and parks run by the council across the borough – but the fieriest opposition so far has emerged in Primrose Hill.
The festival is run by the Primrose Hill Community Association every year in the square, partly with the help of a council grant. The barbecue is considered one of the most important and popular stalls.

Government ministers David and Ed Miliband, who live in the area, are regular attendees and have been informed that the barbecue is under threat. One volunteer said: “David and Ed come along every year. They will be very disappointed. They always stop by.”

Ward councillor Pat Callaghan has grilled officials over the ban.
She said: “For the council to back professional caterers over local people almost defeats the purpose of having a festival. It’s about local people getting involved in their community. I don’t understand why Camden see professionalising festivals as a priority.”

Cllr Callaghan, who alongside other Labour councillors have been seen flipping burgers behind the barbecue over the years, added: “It’s another example of Camden’s obsession with fun-busting.”

The ban comes from a tightening up of rules which the Town Hall said have been an “unwritten policy for many years”.

A council letter to festival organisers said: “There are significant risks to members of the public as well as to the site itself if coal barbecues are allowed. As a policy we do not allow coal barbecues as we would be unable to police safe use of coal across our parks and open spaces.”

There is no suggestion that organisers of the summer barbecue in Primrose Hill have put any of the festival-goers in danger in the past.

Mr Bird said: “This is another needlessly illiberal step from the Town Hall which will affect the community festival season. Citing health and safety reasons is really over the top.”.”

Camden’s leisure chief Councillor Flick Rea, who last week described her own executive role as ‘Camden’s minister for fun’ at a corporate event, said that the council had little choice but to insist on professional caterers at events.
She said: “My personal, personal view is that I don’t like being told what to do but I can understand why the council has to do this. It comes out of the blame and claim culture. It is the council that insures these events, so if somebody gets hurt it is the council that is liable. Coal barbecues have actually always been banned but it was an unwritten rule and now we are tightening things up and we can’t have one rule for the Primrose Hill barbecue and another rule for the rest of the borough.”
The council said that it could recommend professional caterers willing to pay for a pitch at community festivals.

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