Waterlow barbecues: your views sought

by | Nov 19, 2019 | Plan | 13 comments

Waterlow Park is enjoyed by many visitors, both local and from afar, who come for a wide range of reasons from dog walking, to sporting activities, walking and enjoying the views or perhaps to visit historic Lauderdale House and its cafe, or Lux; a major European centre for moving image artists.

Another reason groups of people may come to the park in summer is to have a barbecue, as it is one of the few public places in London where this is allowed. Waterlow Park was even given the ‘top slot’ in a Time Out ranking a year or so back for BBQs. The growing popularity of the park as a BBQ venue led to problems with groups of people scattered all over the park, so for a couple of years it was impossible to get away from the accompanying smoke and smells that BBQs generate.

To deal with what had become a problem the Waterlow Park Trust approved the zoning of BBQs in 2019, restricting them to two areas to the south of the middle pond and away from the main meadow, Lauderdale House and the tennis courts. This meant that during last summer it was in principal possible to visit and enjoy the park without having to dodge the smoke in the same way as before. There were some teething difficulties introducing the new regime, but by and large it seems to have worked as the weeks went by.

The Waterlow Park Trust have just set up a Working Party to look at issues surrounding BBQs and make recommendations for the 2020 season and now want to hear your feedback. Do you feel that the new zoned approach is working? What has been your experience in 2019 compared to previous years? Can you think how things might be further improved for park visitors? What if there were a fixed communal BBQ structure to reduce the number of people bringing their own? Any ideas and comments would be appreciated. Please give your feedback as soon as possible by visiting the contact page on the Waterlow Park Trust website.


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  1. HC

    With all the problems of global warming and atmospheric pollution, we should not be allowing or encouraging barbecues anywhere in London. There is no need for hot food in winter. People can bring picnics.

    As a local resident I am not keen on barbecues in the park. They lead to smell and noise. If barbecues were a standard feature of all London parks, I would live with them. However, the fact they are not allowed elsewhere, brings them to Waterlow. Even with the zoning, they restrict your movement around the park.

  2. Tuan Ho

    Overall, it’s such an odd idea to allow BBQs in a public park. People go into the park for walks and enjoy the nature and fresh air, not for filling up their lungs with BBQ smoke. In this day and age when clean air is so important for our health, BBQs should be banned from public parks, which are the lungs of our cities.

  3. Annie Rigby

    Completely agree with Tuan Ho above – Highgate already is in the black zone for noxious fumes (I can supply you with info) . BBQs emit CO2 (one BBQ session is the same as driving a car 22 miles!) and, as a planet, we urgently need to curb our emissions. I’m not against people eating outdoors, but a picnic is just as much fun and doesn’t cause pollution. The re-zoning doesn’t stop the smell drifting over the whole park. And, the children’s play area is sandwiched right between the 2 new zones, so they are having to breathe in noxious smoke. Please can we just stop them altogether – the park was a much nicer place when we didn’t have them. There have been articles in the national press pointing out the dangers of BBQs

  4. Helen Bean

    I am an avid park user as I walk my dog there. She loves to run and play but unfortunately I have to keep her on the lead as the smell of the BBQs is too much for them. They just want to go and investigate the smells. You also get large groups of people who never use the park at other times invading our lovely space. The large bins are often smoking for days.

  5. M Schlote

    The designated areas worked better this year by moving the area over towards Swain’s Lane and away from the main grass area leading towards the ponds. The one problem I see with any bobby is the usual and often just as irritating need for portable sound systems. I like many go for peace and quiet. Normal conversation is one thing, but the boom, boom of Bluetooth speaker is just as annoying.

  6. Jane Hill

    I accept this is a difficult issue, not least because I know the land that became Waterlow Park was intended as a ‘garden for the gardenless’. Though I recognise why people would want to do it, I very much dislike the BBQs and I haven’t yet met a single person, many of us nature lovers and dog owners who visit the park daily, not rail about them largely because of the attendant behaviours and the damage caused. It appears that many of the worse culprits tend to be occasional visitors who have come from afar because the park was advertised as one of the few places where you could cook. They also often come in large parties with a great deal of paraphernalia, much of which gets left behind. I’ve seen whole kit by the bins. I’ve seen an abandoned BBQ in the middle of a field with not a single element cleared away. The intolerance of dogs rises greatly during these times. Many of us daily walkers, come rain or shine, avoid the park on sunny days, weekends, high days and holidays, when people are more likely to want to cook outside. But I have also seen people ‘bags’ the shelters and hedged areas, including the orchard, early in the morning telling other people they can’t enter. I’ve seen a van drive in to unload furniture for an outdoor room! The main issue for me, for my own sake and as a dog owner, is not just the stink of lighter fuel and acrid smoke, loud music, burnt patches on the grass, bins set alight (people don’t heed the regulations) but the resulting mess that endures and the awful debris, cooked bones and raw flesh, lighter fuel cans, broken bottles, plastic bags that are always left behind or thrown into the shrubs and which are so dangerous to wildlife. I know of two dogs that have needed surgery after swallowing kebab sticks because they were discarded not disposed of. I’ve seen hot coals extinguished in a place where a spring emerges and a fire lit in the hollow of a rotten tree. I’m not convinced the downsides can be managed effectively, even by limiting the areas. It’s hugely dispiriting for those of us who care about the park. We can walk elsewhere but when we dog owners return to the park the hazards are still there and I think the activity spoils it for more people than it entertains. The pollution from traffic in Highgate village is already off the scale of what is acceptable for air quality. The abundance of wildlife in the park has noticeably diminished in the 19 years that I have lived here. We should be protecting these green lungs; aiming for biodiversity, not making them smoke. I love that people should be convivial and neighbourly but I don’t think BBQs necessarily encourage that. It’s more likely to make people territorial.

  7. Rosemary Bondy

    I find it goes against all the ideas of reducing pollution. The smoke from BBQ’s contributes to air pollution and is a cancer causing agent through the skin.

    On the one hand we are all encouraged to reduce pollution by the Council and here the Council is encouraging pollution.

  8. Elaine White

    I have been against barbe ques In the Park due to smells, smoke etc. I was interested to see how the zoning went. My opinion is whilst they take it to the lower part of the park it seems to now attract many more larger groups of people some in groups of 25-50 plus complete with garden furniture tables chairs & carpets spread out., many are ethnic groups with pungent smelling food. There were also people barbecuing in the no zone areas army weekend & it’s impossible to find a park warden to enforce the zones & disposable barbeques. A lot of these groups of people come from all over london to cook in out Park. It should be stopped.

  9. Nick Silver

    I don’t think Waterlow is an appropriate place for barbecues. I don’t have anything against barbecues or picnics per se but in my experience, living opposite these are generally not small gatherings but large expended family parties which spoil the general atmosphere of the place. Frequently loud music is played and the council seem unwilling to do anything about it.
    With all the pubs in Highgate and existing facilities in the park I dont see a good reason why anyone needs to hold a barbecue party in Waterlow

  10. Louise Lewis

    The park was donated by Sir Sydney Waterlow as a ‘garden for the gardenless’. In this day and age, many people who are fortunate enough to have them, use their gardens or balconies to hold barbecues. This is particularly true of young people. Waterlow Park is for everyone to share. We each have to make compromises. People who don’t like dogs, share the park with those who do. People who want peace and quiet share with those who like to play noisily. People who want the park to be an ecological haven share with those who want formal manicured gardens.

    This is achieved in a small space, by zoning, playgrounds, the upper pond conservation area and so on. The zoning arrangements that exist seem to me to be a good compromise between those who would ban barbecues altogether and those who would allow them anywhere. It is a small price to pay for social inclusion and the spirit of happy co-operation it has allowed.

  11. Joanne O'Brien

    I feel that BBQ’s should be allowed in the designated areas. This a a reasonable policy. The issue of allowing BBQ’s is really about sharing public space with those who do not have private access to gardens or yard, where they could hold BBQ’s. We need to encourage a sense of sharing in the community and the park is an important public amenity.

  12. Jane

    I would be in favour of a fixed communal BBQ centre. Waterlow is our local gem and not very large so its primary purpose as a retreat TO not FROM nature should be respected and enjoyed by the majority of people who use it.

  13. Eugene Belin

    BBQs are a nuisance! Please stop these, they are ruining a very beautiful park.


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