A wave of “petty and senseless” attacks on a city’s parks and playgrounds could threaten its future. Syston City Council recently reported a series of destructive acts, ranging from damaged play area surfaces as well as broken litter bins and fences.
In one case, the chains of a children’s swing were sawed off to the point where they were “dangerously thin”. The council, which says it also finds drug paraphernalia and broken glass in public places, says the increase in anti-social behavior has been noticeable over the Easter holiday.
Central Park, Skate Park in Central Park, Deville Park, Peace Gardens and Archdale Park have all suffered physical damage in recent weeks, he said. With repairs and replacements to play equipment potentially costing tens of thousands of pounds, the council says the more they spend on repairs, ‘the less we have to spend elsewhere’.
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City Manager Catherine Voyce said: ‘There may be a day when playgrounds have to be closed because vandals have made them too dangerous to use without funds to repair them.’ She said all play areas in the city are inspected by a facilities manager on a weekly basis, as well as an annual check by an independent inspector from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
This means that if damage is found, it may result in the closure of a playground while repairs are being made. Ms Voyce says it’s unfortunate for park users, not least because of ‘senseless vandalism’.
The most recent incident saw a ‘soft sink’ concrete surface in the Central Park playground being deliberately ripped off, but most shocking was the chains of a swing saw sawed off to a ‘dangerously thin’ level. She said: “The soft casting surface during previous inspections has been assessed as low risk, although it is worn in some areas.
“However, now parts of the Central Park pavement have been deliberately ripped off and thrown around the play area. This will eventually be deemed and rated as too dangerous and unfortunately the play equipment will have to be shut down .
“We are experiencing anti-social behavior across all of our five parks in Syston, with drug paraphernalia left in children’s play areas, as well as broken glass. Last bank holiday weekend the worst was at Deville Park and the Peace Gardens, Central Park.
“A new ferry in Deville Park was completely smashed to pieces, a fence in Deville Park was knocked in and we had to replace signs several times. One of the gates to Skate Park in Central Park was damaged and we have now repaired.
“Additionally, paint has been thrown all over the floor at Archdale Park which cannot be cleaned, as well as the chains sawed off to an unsafe level on the swings.” Newly planted flowers were pulled from the ground, stolen or thrown too – and any behavior was reported to Leicestershire Police, she added.
She continued: “It’s worse now that the evenings are lighter, and it’s the Easter holidays. The facilities manager had to repeatedly remove graffiti from the play areas.
“It sounds abysmal, but playgrounds are well used by the people they are intended for. Repairs and replacement of play equipment cost £10,000, so senseless vandalism makes the supply of new equipment less likely. , because we have a limited budget for this.
“All repairs are obviously paid for out of the expense of the hard working paymasters and the more we have to spend on repairs the less we have to spend elsewhere. These days most councils, including ourselves, have to rely on payment property developers for new playgrounds, so one day playgrounds may have to be closed because vandals have made them too dangerous to use without funds to repair them.”