Arsonists hit children’s playgrounds

Cllr Jack Thomas and Clive Hutchinson (park superintendent) with the remains of the burnt swings at Westfield rd play area in South Elmsall Picture Dean Atkins
Cllr Jack Thomas and Clive Hutchinson (park superintendent) with the remains of the burnt swings at Westfield rd play area in South Elmsall Picture Dean Atkins
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Arsonists have torched expensive play equipment in South Elmsall.

A £5,000 rubber swing on the children’s playground behind Westfield Lane social centre was completely destroyed sometime overnight on Thursday, April 23.

It was the latest attack by yobs in the area during the past few weeks.

Claire Baxter, clerk of South Elmsall Town Council, which runs the centre , said they could not afford to replace the equipment.

She said: “We’ve had several incidents in the playground over the last few weeks. The zip wire was cut and the council had to replace that. Some of the play matting was partially burned so we replaced it with sand. Then the sand was thrown all over the place. We regularly find empty cans and broken bottles smashed up all over the playground.

“A few years ago we won a £50,000 WREN grant to buy state-of-the-art play equipment and then this happens. The swing costs upwards of £5,000 so we won’t be able to replace it. We are going to have to look at alternatives.

“It is very upsetting and it is the town’s children who suffer. This is the only playground in the area - in fact it is the main one in the whole of South Elmsall. I just don’t know what these people think they are achieving.”

Miss Baxter said this was just one of many arson attacks in the parishes where she works, although police believe they are not linked to the playground arson.

She said: “We’ve had three or four attacks on allotments in South Hiendley - one completely destroyed a garden shed and some poultry got caught up in one fire. These have been nasty attacks.

“Arson is a serious offence and it is worrying that we have had so many incidents in both South Elmsall and South Hiendley.

“We’ve got CCTV at the social centre and we will be monitoring this. If anybody knows anything, please come forward.”

Acting Insp Lee Carlson, from the south east neighbourhood police team (NPT), said: “I know that South Elmsall Town Council worked long and hard to have the play area installed for the benefit of the local community and the fact that someone can cause such mindless damage is unbelievable.

“The circumstances suggest the involvement of accelerants and children, which is a worry in itself as the offender is exposing themselves to the risk of severe harm. I would ask anyone with any information to contact the police, Crimestoppers or the town council.”

Anyone with information should call 101.