An award-winning community garden used by children and disabled groups has been torched by vandals.
A willow shelter made out of vine leaves – which served as a living ‘hut’ for outdoor activities – was razed to the ground in the incident, which took place at Loanhead Community Leaning Centre, within the campus of Paradykes Primary School.
Police are keen to trace three youths seen in the area before the fire was reported.
A total of ten trees, including mature cherry, rowan and silver birch trees, were damaged, along with bushes, shrubs and other plants – leaving a total repair bill of £2000.
Tyres surrounding the willow shelter, which had been used by children as seats, were set alight and walnuts on a bush were roasted in the blaze, which happened at around 9.30pm on Friday.
Irene Hogg, LCLC head of establishment, said: “It just seems completely mindless. I believe it hasn’t been people from the community – I’m hoping it wasn’t.
“We have a fantastic new building, the Kabin, that has just be opened at Loanhead Community Learning Centre.
“If the wind had been blowing in a different direction, the fire would have certainly spread to it.”
“The willow shelter was part of a community project set up five years ago.
“We used it as an outdoor classroom for our nursery children and after school club.
“I just can’t believe the devastation and damage which has been caused.
“It’s a community garden and we have volunteers come in and support it – a huge amount of work has gone into it.
“We don’t have the funds to replace it straight away – we are a voluntary organisation – so we will have to raise the money.
“But it’s going to come back – we will not let them beat us.”
In 2008, the community garden was named as one of the best and safest children’s play areas in the world – winning the International Play Association’s Right to Play Award, beating competition from 50 member countries.
Midlothian North MSP Colin Beattie said: “I think this sort of wanton vandalism, which damages community assets belonging to us all us, is absolutely despicable.
“I can only hope that the police apprehend the culprits very quickly and show them the error of their ways.”
Police are eager to speak to anyone who was in the area and saw anything suspicious.
A spokesman said: “Staff and pupils at the school are immensely upset at the needless destruction of the garden structure, particularly, as it was paid for by a £1000 grant and took five years to fully develop.
“Anyone who remembers seeing anything suspicious in or around the area on Friday night is asked to contact police immediately.
“Similarly, anyone with information that can assist in identifying those responsible should also come forward.”
Anyone with any information can contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131-311 3131, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.