A Bicester play area has been so severely damaged by vandals that it has been closed and a future makeover is now in doubt.
The children’s play park in Holm Square, Southwold, was first vandalised on Thursday, December 1, when a large part of the play structure’s wooden frame was snapped exposing screws and sharp metal plates which caused a danger and risk to injury for children. Bicester Town Council said the equipment was beyond repair and it has been scrapped.
In a second incident at the same park, in the early hours of Sunday, December 11, vandals targeted the smaller play structure, ripping off its roof.
The town council estimates it may cost up to £50,000 to replace this equipment.
Plans to refurbish the Southwold park, part of a £250,000 town-wide council scheme, have been put on hold due to repeated incidents there.
Police have been notified and the town council has urged anyone with information about the incidents to contact police via 101.
Now in a bid to try and resolve the problems, residents are being invited to attend the next Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 24 next year, to discuss how together they can overcome issues.
Cllr Jason Slaymaker, chairman of the Environment Committee, said: “We are appalled by what has happened at the children’s play area. This was not the first time the park has been vandalised, but these latest incidents have been the worst to date. The larger play apparatus has been so severely damaged it is beyond repair and has now been removed from the site permanently.
“I find it difficult to understand why this individual or group of people have wreaked such wanton damage to play equipment used by young children and their families.
“As a council we really don’t want to see young children miss out on outdoor fun because of a few selfish individuals, but at the same time we are responsible for tax payers’ money and we cannot keep repairing play equipment which has been so wilfully damaged.
“We need a solution and feel that the community can help. I would urge residents to join us at the next Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 24, so we can put our heads together to discuss how these problems can be overcome and agree a step forward.”
The larger play areas at Southwold and Bure Park underwent a major refurbishment, including new equipment, in 2016, together with play areas in Garth Park and Shakespeare Drive, which cost a total of £260,000.
A local resident who we approached for comment said:
It’s a real shame that mindless vandalism ruins a much needed outlet for the local young children to play. I’ve seen groups of teenagers drinking in the park after it’s closed and making lots of noise. With the closure it’s the toddlers who miss out and suffer.
If residents see vandalism taking place or evidence of vandalism in play areas and local sports pitches they should call the police on 101 and notify Bicester Town Council by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01869 252 915.