The pub trade has slammed a proposed ban on patio heaters as "entirely unnecessary" after the European Parliament backed calls to phase them out because of their contribution to carbon dioxide emissions.
MEPs want the European Commission to consider a ban on the outdoor heaters as part of wider improvements to energy-efficiency legislation. One MEP said that gas-powered heaters emitted more CO2 than the average car.
But the major pub groups insisted the heaters they use are "as environmentally friendly as possible" amid reports that a ban would cost the sector £250m in lost trade.
Giles Thorley, chief executive of Punch Taverns, said: "It's ironic this comes at a time when we've all invested heavily in slightly heated areas after the Government banned smoking. Most of our heaters are the electric type. Also, many have movement sensors and only turn on when there's someone under them so are as environmentally friendly as possible."
Shepherd Neame retail director Nigel Bunting added: "A ban on the sale of all patio heaters is entirely unnecessary. We use electrical radiant heaters, which only heat the body, not the air, and emit just 10% of the amount given out by gas heaters. All of us want a safe and responsible leisure environment, but to ban these devices without good reason is an overreaction."
Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall, who authored the original report, told Caterer that the proposals were a long way off becoming law. "People are worried about the investments they've made, but this is more to do with what will be on the market in the future," she said.
"This is much more about looking at the longer term and people need to be concerned about the environment when buying these products."
Conservative MP Nigel Evans called on the Government to protect the British pub industry by ignoring a ban on heaters.
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By Christopher Walton