Communities in Sheffield are calling for the government to strengthen the law on grouse moor burning following parts of the city being smothered by acrid smoke.

Since the burning season opened on 1 October, a series of large fires have been set over several days on moorland near Strines and Stanage Edge.

Grouse moor management often involves burning heather to provide younger, fresher vegetation to be eaten by game birds, which are fired on by sports shooting parties.

The fires have sparked concerns from Sheffield residents about air quality and pollution.

Resident Ben Barker told BBC Radio Sheffield he had been forced to leave the city due to the amount of smoke.

Mr Barker, from Fulwood, said he and his wife saw “two huge plumes of smoke” looming over Sheffield on their drive back from Derbyshire.

He said: “It was terrible. As we got closer to Fulwood you could really taste the smell, it was horrendous.

“Driving down from the top towards Sheffield you could see that the whole of the Sheffield centre was covered in smoke and that was really worrying, I was very concerned about that.”

Mr Barker said he and his wife had both been recovering from a chest infection and left the city again in the afternoon as they had been concerned about their health.

Mr Barker added: “There are clearly thousands and thousands of people whose health will have been compromised by this smoke. It was diabolical.”

Other residents reported having to close their windows and stay inside, whilst students at the University of Sheffield reported being able to smell the smoke inside their study areas.

Recognising the environmental damage caused by heather burning, the government introduced a partial ban on the practice in 2021. However, the legislation only covers moorlands made up of deep peat, with many of those on the edge of Sheffield being exempt.

Sheffield Council joined 12 other local authorities and their leaders in 2022 to call on the government to strengthen the law surrounding burning of peat moorlands so that a complete ban is implemented.

Councillor Ben Miskell, chair of the transport, regeneration and climate committee, said this week: “Our moorland has a special place in the hearts of people in Sheffield and people want to see it protected.

“While the council has limited powers to compel landowners to behave responsibly, we will use all tools at our disposal to encourage them to do so.

“Our biodiversity is precious and needs protecting. That’s why landowners should follow our lead and introduce a ‘non-burning’ policy.”