Witney parkland vandalised

John Hickman with some of the damage to the field

John Hickman with some of the damage to the field Buy this photo

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter, also covering Barton and Wood Farm. Call me on (01865) 425427

VANDALS have carved up a Witney park by driving and spinning cars over the grass leaving sports activities in doubt and taxpayers a bill for “several hundred pounds”.

There has been an angry reaction after muddy tyre tracks were ripped into The Leys Recreational Ground.

Witney Town Council said cricket matches may be cancelled or delayed if the grass cannot be repaired before the season starts in the spring.

Claire Swan, the council’s facilities manager, said at least two vehicles, one probably a 4x4, had sped around the field last Thursday evening.

She said: “The real irony here is they are only damaging their own facility. The Leys is for everybody to use so this kind of behaviour is really disappointing and a little depressing.”

She added: “Notwithstanding the long-term damage they have caused, there is the immediate danger to others they pose when they are driving cars around in such a reckless manner on public land.

“I get very disheartened by this type of behaviour especially at a time when the council is working so hard to improve the sports and recreation provision across the town.”

The field was bought by town residents in 1920 as a memorial to locals killed in the First World War.

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Council spokesman Polly Inness said repairs would cost “several hundred pounds”.

She said: “A lot of council budgets across the country are sapped by acts of vandalism every year.” She said between April 2010 and March 2011, the council spent nearly £10,000 of taxpayers’ cash fixing acts of vandalism.

Witney Swifts Cricket Club plays on the field from April and Spartan Rangers Football Club uses another part of the ground during its season.

John Hickman, the council’s works and contracts supervisor, said the damage is bad as the ground was heavily saturated after the recent rain.

He said: “It is vital this area is maintained in a safe condition for safety reasons. If you imagine it full of ruts and furrows it could potentially be extremely hazardous to anyone on the receiving end of a bad bounce or a trip during a cricket match.”

He added: “It’s going to be a lot of work and considerable expense to put it right.

“I think we are looking at a month to six weeks to get some improvement, supposing that the grass seed takes which isn’t, of course, definite at this time of year and with the recent weather.”

Dave Woodward, chairman of Witney Swifts Cricket Club, said games would either be forfeited or rearranged if the ground did not recover in time.

He said: “It’s obviously extremely annoying as we are due to start fixtures at the end of April. We hope the council will be able to get it sufficiently repaired in time.”

PC Duncan Johnson, of the Witney neighbourhood team, said: “It is a valuable amenity for the public and it’s a shame some small-minded people have caused extensive damage to the detriment of the town.”

Call police on 101 if you have any information.

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