Another fire blamed on ‘teen arsonists’ at Bretch Hill park

Play equipment in Princess Diana Park in Bretch Hill was set alight on Wednesday, August 9. NNL-171108-113359001
Play equipment in Princess Diana Park in Bretch Hill was set alight on Wednesday, August 9. NNL-171108-113359001
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Residents and the council are becoming sick of near-constant fires they say are caused by teenage arsonists in a much-loved park in Bretch Hill after another one on Wednesday evening (August 9).

Firefighters put out the fire engulfing play equipment in Princess Diana Park off Prescott Close at around 11pm.

The park has been subject to many similar fires in the past few months, leaving neighbours and Banbury mayor Cllr Colin Clarke at the end of their tether.

“Wednesday’s fire was another attempt by vandals to wreck the children’s play area at Princess Diana Park,” Cllr Clarke, who is also Banbury town council chairman, said.

“After the last spate of arson attacks in the park, the council questioned if it was cost effective to keep repairing the damage and this latest fire could bring the removal of the play area a step closer.

“We all appreciate that the closure of the play area will be detrimental to the area but the council doesn’t have limitless funds.

The fire in Princess Diana Park. Photo: Banbury Town Council NNL-171108-130712001

The fire in Princess Diana Park. Photo: Banbury Town Council NNL-171108-130712001

“Someone in the area knows who the culprits are and they should pass the names to the police, their local councillor, or to council officers at the town hall.

“The committee will discuss the matter again at its next meeting.”

Leonie Dancer said on Facebook: “This park will be took away soon, whoever’s done this probably have family members that play here, why should our kids suffer for some low life little s**** with nothing better to do.”

Nix Gee added: “I went up there for the first time yesterday with my grandchildren and dogs. What a beautiful park. Lovely walks, play areas to suit all ages.

“Such a shame that a handful of people are choosing to ruin a wonderful place. There are so few places to enjoy the outdoors in Banbury. Disrespectful and mindless, who need to be caught and prosecuted.”

The town council, which owns the park, warned earlier this year that the equipment could be closed if vandals kept setting fire to the equipment, and said it was stepping up patrols, but this has not stopped them, it seems.

Cherwell District Councillor Sean Woodcock wrote on Facebook: “Cllrs Cherry, Richards, Ross, Kilsby and myself are determined to keep the park open and have communicated this to Cllr Colin Clarke at the Town Council who is responsible for the parks.

“He agrees with us but naturally there is not an infinite pot of money to keep replenishing it.

“We have met with the police and with Cherwell DC anti-social behaviour team as well as the park wardens.

“We need members of the public and particularly those in the area to identify the people doing this so we can put a stop to it. Please report to 101 or contact one of us with any information.”

The park was given a facelift six years ago when over £150,000 was spent on new play items, fencing and landscaping.

But a history of vandalism including the arson attacks means the council is considering if the play area can be retained.

Other incidents include wrecking a play tunnel, digging up the soft safety surface, pulling down fencing, and breaking up a wooden walkway.