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Parent patrol could save Wincanton play park

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: September 01, 2012

PLAGUED PARK: Mothers Vanessa and Melanie Houghton and their sons David, five, Daniel, six, Michael, seven, and Joel, five. The mums are calling for action after Rickhayes recreation ground in Wincanton fell victim to vandalism

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Disgusted parents may form a vigilante-style patrol in a bid to save a play park in Wincanton.

Rickhayes recreation ground has recently seen its roundabout, slide and set of swings wrecked by mindless vandals.

Parents branded the damage and litter left at the children’s site – including condoms – as disgusting.

They have called on Wincanton Town Council, the police and the community to fight back.

Mother Vanessa Houghton, who moved to the town three weeks ago, believes one solution could be for parents to mount regular patrols of the park.

She said: “Having so much of the play equipment removed and the teenagers sitting there drinking means it is not safe for young children.

“If a group of men were willing to patrol the area then that could be one way to stop the vandals.”

Her sister-in-law Melanie, of Silver Street, recently visited the park with her two boys – and was horrified by what she found.

She said: “I went up there on the way back from shopping with the kids and found a group of teenagers loitering by the play equipment. Their language was disgraceful.

“When I went to sit on a bench in the shade there were also condoms scattered everywhere. It was very upsetting.

“The play park is for youngsters and toddlers but it’s not safe. They want to go on the swings but there are teenagers loitering around, which is very intimidating.

“When I take my boys to the park I don’t expect to be confronted by teenagers. You can understand why the town council doesn’t want to replace some of the equipment, it would give people the opportunity to wreak havoc.”

Councillors are considering not replacing the park’s play equipment over fears it will merely fall victim to vandals again. They are now in discussions over how best to combat the vandals, while trying to safeguard the amenities of its young people.

Town Councillor Richard D’Arcy said: “I don’t think we should consider closing the play area, but we have to accept the council doesn’t have a bottomless pit of money.

“All you hear about is the euphoria of the play park possibly closing, but we must look at every alternative before considering that.”

Amongst other ideas mooted to tackle the problem are the introduction of CCTV cameras or relocating the play park.

Wincanton beat manger PC Andrew Brown urged the public to help police in catch the vandals.

He said: “I am aware that damage is being caused in the recreation ground at Wincanton.

“This is particularly sad as it affects a large number of people in the community who use this valuable asset.

“The police regularly patrol the area and have access to mobile CCTV cameras which can be used in a situation like this.

“We have very few calls to the area regarding the damage being caused and I would encourage anyone who witnesses or knows anything about who is causing the damage to contact me at Wincanton Police Station”.

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