A children’s play park in Banbridge which reopened less than two years ago after undergoing a £300,000 refurbishment has been damaged in an overnight arson attack.
Police and firefighters were tasked to the incident in Solitude Park in the early hours of this morning (Tuesday, April 24).
A post on the PSNI Banbridge Facebook page said: “Unfortunately last night whilst out on patrol we discovered that the main climbing frame in Solitude Park had been set on fire, causing damage to the safety netting and ropes.
“A quick response from our local NIFRS members ensured that the frame was not completely destroyed.”
Staff from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have cordoned off the climbing frame while they assess the extent of the damage to the safety netting, ropes and ladder.
Stressing that repair work will be carried out as soon as possible, a council spokesperson appealed for anyone with information about the attack to contact police.
Condemning “the destructive actions of the vandals”, Lord Mayor Alderman Gareth Wilson said: “Why anyone would want to vandalise equipment at a local children’s play area is beyond me. This type of mindless vandalism is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
“Those responsible should be thoroughly ashamed of their actions because children in the local area will now be deprived of the opportunity to enjoy the climbing frame while it is withdrawn from use until fully repaired.
“It’s not acceptable either that public money should be used to fund repairs due to the irresponsible actions of a minority who do not respect these facilities.
“Whilst I ask that anyone with knowledge of this attack contact the police, I would also appeal for those involved to cease targeting these much valued community facilities.”
Also condemning the attack, Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin Savage said: “I want to first of all commend the local police force who intervened swiftly in the early hours of this morning. It was this swift intervention that significantly limited the damage caused. I want to also thank the Fire Service for their efforts.
“The mindless actions of those involved serve absolutely no purpose. Nothing is to be gained from setting fire to a children’s play park.
“Those behind this attack have little to offer and their actions will be met with anger and disgust from the local community.
“I have been in touch with council staff this morning to request that the park is assessed before it is opened to the public.”
UUP Councillor Glenn Barr said the attack had been carried out by “wanton vandals”.
“Luckily no one was injured and I would like to thank the PSNI and NIFRS who made sure that the frame of the climbing frame was not damaged with their speedy response,” he commented.
A spokesperson for the NI Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that one fire crew from Banbridge Fire Station was tasked to Solitude Park shortly after 2am to deal with a report of a climbing frame on fire.
“The cause of the incident was deliberate. The incident was dealt with at 2.24am,” she said.
Police officers investigating the attack have appealed for anyone who was in the area of the park or Tesco this morning between 1:30am and 2:15am and saw or heard anything suspicious to contact them on 101 quoting reference 104 of 24/4/18.