MOVES are being made to ban smoking in Blackpool’s parks.
Signs are to go up at the entrances to 13 parks and playing fields advising the public the areas are now smoke-free sites.
Notices are already being installed in council-owned playgrounds, and now town hall chiefs are seeking to extend the policy to parks in full.
Health bosses today said the move was being made to protect children from the dangers of smoking, but the policy has been branded ‘outrageous’ by those who fear it could drive visitors away.
Now further banners are proposed for Anchorsholme, GeorgeBancroft, Boundary, Claremont, Crossland Road, East Pines, Highfield Road, Kingscote, and Watson Road parks; Central Drive Recreation Ground, Fishers Field, Gynn Square and Whiteholme playing fields.
The move follows on from signs being installed in the grounds of The Solaris Centre in South Shore last October advising visitors it was a designated smoke free zone.
The park signs will be inscribed with the message: “To protect children this is a designated smokefree site.”
The initiative is part of the “Altogether Now – a Legacy for Blackpool” health promotion campaign, which is a partnership between Blackpool Council, NHS Blackpool and Blackpool Football Club.
Coun Ivan Taylor, chairman of Blackpool’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said he backed the move to discourage smoking in playgrounds.
He added: “The idea is to protect the children who are on the playgrounds.
“I don’t think it is reasonable for children who are playing to be suffering from inhaling smoke and to being influenced by seeing adults also smoking.
“We’ll have to wait and see what the reaction is but I think most people would welcome the reason for it.
“Smoking is a killer and we need to do all we can to discourage it.”
NHS Blackpool is paying for the signs to be installed.
Dr Amanda Doyle, Blackpool GP and clinical lead for Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “As a GP, I see first-hand the catastrophic effect smoking has on families.
“Almost 400 people die every year in Blackpool as a result of their smoking, while 8,000 are receiving medical care for preventable smoking-related conditions.
“There is overwhelming public support for smoke free parks and playgrounds.
“That is why Blackpool CCG is delighted Blackpool Council have agreed to use the strength and impact of Altogether Now – a Legacy for Blackpool to get this important message across.
“Children deserve and have the right to play in a clean, healthy environment. Tobacco litter is greatly reduced where the smoke free message is clear.
“Cigarette butts are not biodegradable so they pose a danger to young children who may eat them.
“The sooner smoking becomes less visible in our local community the better for our children.”
However, Gary Pennington, chairman of the Friends of Highfield Park, said the money for signs could be better spent elsewhere.
He added: “We think this is outrageous. We really cannot see what the problem is when people are out in the open air.
“Why is there money to spend on these signs, when we cannot get funding for signs to warn against dog fouling, which is a much more serious issue and which affects health?”
Tory councillor Henry Mitchell, who is a member of Blackpool Council’s health committee, said money should be spent on educating young people against the perils of smoking instead of on signs.
He added: “This smacks of common sense having gone out of the window.
“I don’t smoke, but I can respect the fact other people do and while I recognise we need to prevent young people from smoking.
“I think this really is going a bit too far.”
At present a ban is not enforceable, although the council could seek to introduce by-laws under the Localism Bill in the future.
A planning application has been submitted to Blackpool Council seeking permission to install 34 signs in total at the entrances to each park.
The scheme was met with a mixed reaction in Blackpool parks.
Steven Harker, 20, of Elizabeth Court, Layton, said: “When I take my child to the park I don’t want people smoking next to us.”
George Turner, 55, of Bardsway Avenue, Layton, added: “It’s a bit over the top to put a sign in there.”
But Keith Fox, 45, who lives next to Kingscote Park park, said: “Nobody will take any notice of a sign which is outside.
“It’s a waste of money because people don’t want to be told what to do and you can’t police something like this.”