ONE of Britain's biggest retailers has been criticised for continuing to sell disposable barbecues in the New Forest - despite the risk of wildfires.

Cllr Jack Davies has accused Co-op of putting the area's unique environment at risk by failing to support a campaign launched by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA).

The organisation urged the authority to stop selling disposable barbecues in the Forest following a spate of fires.

New Forest Post:

More than 50 shops and garages across the district have signed up to the campaign - but barbecues can still be bought in Co-op branches.

Cllr Davies said: "Companies don’t just have a responsibility to their shareholders, they have a responsibility to us as well.

“By selling disposable barbecues in the New Forest, Co-op are refusing to take responsibility for their actions and putting our unique environment at risk.”

It comes just days after the NPA thanked other retailers for refusing to sell disposable barbecues.

NPA chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: ‘We would like to thank all the retailers who care about the impact these BBQs have on the Forest and have taken them off sale.

"It is vital we continue to urge retailers to join the campaign to keep the Forest safe this summer.

‘Our woods and lowland heathland are of global environmental importance for wildlife and their peaty soils store carbon and help reduce climate change. Wildfires at this time of year would cause immense damage to the ground and the rare flora and fauna.

"We must protect them from unintentional fires caused by carelessness."

Bruce Rothnie of Forestry England said: "Our team is working around the clock to patrol and inform the public of the high risk of fire and the devastating effect it could have on this precious place.

New Forest Post:

"Fires of any kind remain banned in the New Forest and we urge anyone planning on enjoying time here to respect and support this."

But Co-op has defended its decision not to remove disposable barbecues from the shelves.

A spokesperson said Co-op had worked with the NPA and displayed the organisation's "BBQs Are Banned in New Forest" signs in stores.

They added: "Co-op provides clear and prominent instructions on the packaging of our Instant BBQs to ensure customers know how to use them in a safe and responsible manner.

"Safety instructions are repeated multiple times on the pack and we also state very clearly that the BBQs shouldn’t be used in prohibited areas, both on pack and on shelf edge signs."