Half a dozen pieces of playground equipment at Blackpool’s Stanley Park are out of action after being wrecked by vandals or breaking down due to age.
Around a quarter of all the kit on the children’s park, off West Park Drive, is now bust and will cost tens of thousands to put right after years of deterioration.
Two tyre swings have been removed from their frame, a yellow roundabout has been cordoned off with barriers, a nest swing has been removed, the zipwire has no seat, the two seats on a swinging circus swing have vanished, and a large battering ram-type dragon swing is also missing.
But there is hope for local families and holidaymakers alike – the council said it has found to money to replace at least some of the broken kit.
Coun Maria Kirkland, the resort's parks boss, said: "Some of the play equipment has come to the end of its life whilst other pieces are missing due to vandalism.
“Whilst missing equipment is disappointing and we did receive a very small number of complaints the play area is still well used by local families on a daily basis.
“There is a plan to replace some of the missing equipment in the coming months, including the flooring for the zip wire, large basket swing and large dragon swing.
"It is anticipated that this will cost in the region of £40,000 and money has been allocated for this work to be carried out.
"We are looking forward to seeing youngsters having fun with the new equipment.”
Elaine Smith, chairman of the Friends of Stanley Park group, said “at least two bids” have been put in for cash to improve the park in the wake of the damage.
She said: “The equipment is so expensive. We are not talking a couple of hundred pounds, we are talking thousands for every item on there.”
'THE VANDALISM WE GET IS HORRENDOUS'
A new see-saw plus installation would cost around £6,000, Elaine said, while balance beams can cost up to £7,000.
Even small springers – model animals that children can rock back and forth on – cost around £3,000.
“We are just talking ridiculous money,” Elaine said, with damage being reported on a weekly basis – with the council seemingly unable to keep up.
“The vandalism we get is horrendous, but it’s not just us, it’s every park in town.”
CHILDREN SITTING ON CHAIRS ... ON TOP OF A ROOF
Elaine said she believes CCTV cameras could be the answer – or it could just shift the problem to another part of the park, which has suffered numerous acts of vandalism in recent years.
Memorial benches have been dumped in the lake, statues have been smashed and even stolen, and even flowers have been pinched from a remembrance garden honouring the war dead.
Youngsters have recently been taking chairs onto the roof of the art deco cafe and sitting there, Elaine said, while they have also been spotted on the bus shelter roof near to the park’s entrance several times recently.
Park wardens could also be a solution, Elaine said, though more than one would be needed to cover the park at night, with their effectiveness also called into question.
Coun Tony Williams, opposition leader at the town hall, said: “Stanley Park is the jewel in the crown but we can’t let the idiots win. Vandalism has been going on for a long time and we have never got to grips with it.
“More must be done.”
'A POLICE OFFICER WOULD PUT A STOP TO IT'
Coun Williams said two police officers were stationed in the park a decade ago and should return, and said the “hooligans” involved should be tracked down and punished.
“There used to be a police station in there,” he said. “It must have been 2009, or 2010 perhaps. There were two police officers in there.
“They are not there any more but a police officer would put a stop to it. You can drive through most of the park.
“I’m not going to blame the council because it’s not their fault. It’s down to the children and the parents who don’t understand what their children are up to.
“Behaviour starts at home. All kids do silly things, but when it’s consistent and blatant vandalism we need to catch them.”
The Gazette asked Lancashire Police how many reports of anti-social behaviour and vandalism have been made to the force in the past six months.
It also asked what efforts have been made to combat the problem, and for a response to Coun Williams' comments.
Sgt Mark Lancaster, from Blackpool Police, said: "We are aware of an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour in Stanley Park.
“It is currently identified as one of our police priorities and is subject to a problem orientated partnership, where we are working closely with other agencies including the council to try and find a way we can reduce this behaviour.
“As part of our patrol plan, Stanley Park is visited by neighbourhood police officers at key times of the day to provide a visible presence. We also liaise regularly with park staff to identify any cases of crime and anti-social behaviour.
“It is not practical to have officers stationed in the park at all times, given the staffing numbers on our department and sheer volume of demand in Blackpool.
“When a crime is committed we will always try and seek out evidence to identify who is responsible so that they can be dealt with. I would encourage anyone who witnesses a crime or anti-social behaviour in the park to come forward and contact police immediately.”