Rallying call to stop ‘mindless’ Banbury park arson attacks

Police officers, including Sgt Jade Hewitt, with Banbury mayor Colin Clarke and fire station manager Mark Ames (right) by the damaged play equipment.

The community was urged to help catch the ‘mindless’ arsonists ruining play equipment at a Banbury park during an ‘action day’.

Police officers, firefighters and councillors made a rallying cry to residents to provide them with any information which may put a stop to the attacks in Princess Diana Park.

More play equipment was damaged in a suspected arson at Princess Diana Park in Banbury on Sunday, August 20. NNL-170823-100353001

Neighbours shared their concerns and anger with them at the park on Wednesday (August 23). after four fires in a month, most recently on Sunday.

Sergeant Jade Hewitt said: “I want to send a really strong message that we will not tolerate this mindless vandalism in our community but we need the community to pull together.

“Whoever is doing it they will get caught – we’ll have more patrols, some covert, and we want CCTV installed in the area.

“If the community comes together then we will find these people and we will put a stop to this.”

Police officers talk to residents about the arson attacks at Princess Diana Park NNL-170823-150743001

Firefighters put out the fire at the park off Prescott Avenue at around 8.30pm.

Half of a wooden climbing frame and rope walkway was destroyed and the area around it was severely damaged.

Banbury Town Council is running out of patience and money to keep repairing the equipment.

Mayor Cllr Colin Clarke, who also chairs the committee in charge of the park, said shutting the play area altogether is a possibility.

Banbury Fire Station supported the event NNL-170823-150756001

“I really don’t want to recommend closing it,” he said.

“We’ve never had to close a play area in this town before because of vandalism. It’s a last resort but we can’t keep spending taxpayers’ money fixing the equipment. Look after it or lose it.”

The park was subject to a similar spate of arsons earlier this year, but they stopped for a few months before restarting again a fortnight ago.

Banbury Fire Station manager Mark Ames put it down to the school holidays as it is believed youths are to blame.

More play equipment was damaged in a suspected arson at Princess Diana Park in Banbury on Sunday, August 20. NNL-170823-100337001

“If these arsonists are not found, the possibility of them getting braver and moving onto bigger attacks is great,” he said.

“Also whilst my crews are spending time putting out needless fires like these, they are not available for life-saving firefighting in Banbury.

“We’re having to use crews from outside the town while they deal with these arsons.”

Town councillor Barry Richards, whose ward includes the park, said many people are angry and feel like something needs to be done.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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