Oxford City Council is warning visitors to Port Meadow and other green spaces around the city to take their rubbish home or face a £150 fixed penalty notice.
Since the government began easing lockdown measures last month people have returned to Port Meadow in large numbers. The council claims that picnickers and partiers leave up to 3 tonnes of rubbish per day, mostly plastic and glass, which is taking a serious toll on the historic parkland.
The council has described recent behaviour as ‘unacceptable’ and will be taking a tougher line on people who do not take their rubbish away in future.
Thames Valley Police has announced plans to step up patrols of the meadow, and will issue £150 fixed penalty notices to people caught littering.
If further enforcement action is required, the Magistrates’ Court has the power to impose a maximum fine of £2,500.
Two cows have died in the past month from eating rubbish, including a three month old calf. Several horses, along with a number of swans have also been reported to have sustained cuts from broken glass or been found to have become entangled in plastic waste left by careless visitors.
Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks, said
“I have a simple message for people: Your litter kills. Take it home with you or face a £150 fine.”
Port Meadow is not only historic grazing land for horses and cattle, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the diversity of its wildlife.
Julian Cooper, Port Meadow ranger, ODS, added:
“The litter really does put the future of the meadow and its wildlife very much at risk. We welcome careful, responsible users and the vast majority of people are. But if you’re coming here for a picnic, take your rubbish home. There’s no excuse for leaving any rubbish behind.”
The council stressed that people were free to enjoy Port Meadow and other green spaces around Oxford responsibly, and its direct services company ODS has installed extra bins at entrances to the meadow that are being emptied more frequently than before the pandemic.