Firebugs target cherished park

Hope Street Park Pavilion
Hope Street Park Pavilion
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Youths caught after five-day spate of loutish behaviour at Hope Street Park

A warning has been issued after young firebugs targeted a cherished park which has been at the centre of a seven-year funding campaign.

Pam Curtis

Pam Curtis

Four youths were caught following a five-day spate of loutish behaviour in and around Hope Street Park in St Annes.

But a message has been issued from the park’s supporters warning other youths of the consequences of their actions.

The trouble started when a group of 12 to 13-year-olds attempted – but failed – to set fire to the gazebo, a number of shrubs and bins before running down Wyre Street overturning wheelie bins.

It continued just four days later when there was a further attempt to set fire to the gazebo.

It’s something the community has worked hard raising money for and looking after

Police and fire officers caught two youths and ordered them to attend a young fire-starter’s course.

A further two youths, hiding behind the Victoria pub, were spoken to by police who are now considering the correct course of action.

Pam Curtis, secretary of the Friends of Hope Street Park, said: “The pavilion is well protected now with CCTV on the building all the way round and security lighting.”

And she told anyone intent on damaging the leisure facility: “Don’t do it.

“It’s something the community has worked hard raising money for and looking after.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone, that gazebo, because there’s no more money to replace it.”

She added: “I think two of the people come from a good school – the police officer said that’s where they’re from.”

“It’s a school that’s got a good reputation and they’re damaging that.

“They’re in the minority and there’s always that risk of someone doing something stupid.

“We’re appealing for people not to do it.

“And if anyone sees anything, ring 101.”

Fylde Community Safety Partnership’s Bryan Ward said: ‘This is very foolish behaviour – anti-social and also dangerous.

‘The police are patrolling regularly and there are also CCTV cameras, as the park has been subject to a number of attacks in recent years.

“It means that troublemakers will almost certainly be caught with all the shame that entails.

‘We are taking this sort of thing very seriously and the fire service has prepared a presentation about arson for showing in Fylde high schools.

“The police, the fire service, the council and the park’s volunteer fund-raisers are all watching the park closely – but we hope we have now stamped out the problem.’

The park’s gardener has now trimmed shrubs in the park after firewood was found hidden in undergrowth.

John Taylor, spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said crews are going into schools, using equipment and videos, to help get the fire safety message across.

“It’s a standard job they’ve done for years,” he said.

“It’s year six in the main, so they catch them quite young. It’s incorporated as part of he curriculum.

“The message is the danger of fire, because when they get a bit older, there are youths who are malicious, but they are young children who play with fire.

“Fire starts in a small way and before you know it you’re burning a building down.”

He added: “It’s also looking at hoax calls, People who take the calls say they’ve got children on the line because they’re giggling.

“So it’s the behaviour of young children and their attitude to fire they’re engaging with.”

Just last month a family a fun day celebrated the re-opening of the park’s pavilion that has been completely refurbished with a new roof, new windows and doors, a heating system, new kitchen, new toilets and baby-changing facility, and external comprehensive CCTV and lighting.

Councillor Heather Speak, Fylde’s deputy mayor, and councillor Cheryl Little, chairman of the council’s tourism and leisure committee performed the ceremony

The pavilion’s major £152,909 refit is the latest stage in the Friends of Hope Street Park’s programme of improvements that, since 2008, has included a children’s play area, a toddlers’ play area, a teen shelter, improved paths, a climbing frame and a watering system for the main bowling green.

Pam said: ‘It has been a fantastic journey since we started fund-raising in 2008.

“Funding has come from so many sources – but most notable was the £21,480 left anonymously on my doorstep three years ago which my husband Ian Roberts and I decided should be spent on the pavilion.”

She added: “The work doesn’t end here: we now want to carry on improving the park with improvements to more paths, to the multi-use games area and also to introduce a wild walk.

“The pavilion is a tribute to the work of countless volunteers and funding organisations – and we will continues with the rest of our plans.’

The Friends have also received cash support for park improvements from Fylde Council, the former Fylde Local Strategic Partnership, Progress Housing, St Annes-on-Sea Town Council, the county council, from car boot sales and fun days.

The works on the pavilion have been assisted by Blackpool Council which has provided architectural and quantity surveyor services which specified the improvement works necessary.

The county council has also helped with design and funding for wider improvements at the park.