Who set fire to Stanley Park? Hunt on for Blackpool arsonist after firefighters douse flames in toilet block
The gent's toilet block inside Blackpool’s Stanley Park was torched deliberately, investigators believe.
Police are hunting for the arsonist responsible for setting loo roll on fire inside the block, which left the facility filled with smoke and badly charred.
It was the latest act of vandalism at the spacious and popular park, which was recently named the UK’s best.
Two fire engines from the nearby Forest Gate station were called to tackle the fire at around 7.15pm yesterday, the service said. Firefighters used breathing masks and a water jet to douse the flames.
The council said the cubicle where the fire started has been damaged, while the entire block – which was shut today – will need cleaned because of the smoke. It is usually locked on a night but was not at the time of the fire.
John Blackledge, the authority’s director of community and environmental services, said: “Such behaviour is mindless and totally irresponsible. The culprit or culprits obviously don’t care about the damage they have caused.
"It’s so sad when things like this happen as the staff and volunteers at Stanley Park work so hard to keep it a national award-winning park.”
Earlier this year, Elaine Smith, chairman of the park’s Friends group, which helped raise cash to revamp of the toilets, said she believes CCTV cameras could be the answer to an ongoing campaign of “horrendous” vandalism – or it could just shift the problem elsewhere.
In recent years, memorial benches have been dumped in the lake, statues have been smashed or stolen, and flowers have been pinched from a remembrance garden honouring the dead.
More recently, youngsters have been taking chairs onto the roof of the art deco cafe, Elaine said, while they have also been spotted on the bus shelter roof near to the park’s entrance – allowing them to get past the gate locked after dusk – several times.
Elaine suggested park wardens could also help, but more than one would be needed and they may not be the most effective fix.
Coun Tony Williams, opposition leader at the town hall, said previously: “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.”
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. “A police officer would put a stop to it,” he said. “You can drive through most of the park.”
In August, Sgt Mark Lancaster, from Blackpool Police, said officers were “aware of an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour in Stanley Park”. He added: “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.”