Action planned after scrubland blazes left homes threatened

An area of scrubland near homes on a Barnsley street could be cleared of trees following a series of fires which sent flames perilously close to residents' gardens.

Friday, 7th September 2018, 7:53 am
Updated Friday, 7th September 2018, 7:56 am
Burning issue: Coun Jo Newing at the site where it is hoped a fire hazard can be reduced

Councillors began an investigation after incidents during the heatwave on an area of open land between homes on Fleet Hill Crescent and a former quarry near Wakefield Road, where conifer trees went up in flames and burned the ground to within a few feet of garden boundaries, leaving some residents worried for their safety.

The land has been neglected for many years and its ownership still has to be confirmed, but councillors representing the Old Town ward believe it is owned by Barnsley Council, probably passing from a utility company at some point in the past, and if that is confirmed, it means the authority will be in a position to take action.

Coun Jo Newing said the assumption was the conifers, which span a wide strip behind the homes, were planted as a decorative feature but had since become overgrown and had merged with other unmanaged growth to create a barrier which was both impenetrable and blocked the view of a footpath beyond.

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It remains unclear how the fires started, with the possibility of either deliberate ignition or carelessly discarded cigarettes, but Coun Newing said the aim was now to take action.

When the ownership of the site is confirmed, it may be possible to either clear the whole site of trees, or just to take out the conifers and leave native species.

Coun Newing said: 'We think the land belongs to the council and previously it belonged to a utility company, but there has been no management and it has been left to grow rampant.

'It has been on fire a couple of times and residents were very worried it would jump the fence and go into their gardens.

'As councillors, we are in the process of establishing that the council owns the land and when we have done that, we will be looking at whether the council can manage it better,' she said.

No work would be done on site until the nesting season for birds was over, she added, but the hope was to make progress before next summer, when dry conditions could make the site vulnerable again.