West Lothian crime: Armadale and Blackburn play parks torched by 'reckless' vandals around Bonfire Night

Two play parks were set alight by vandals in attacks branded ‘outrageous’.
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‘Selfish’ vandals have caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage after they torched children’s play parks in West Lothian around Bonfire Night.

Play equipment at St Anthony’s park in Armadale and Blackburn Skatepark were both torched causing £26,000 worth of damages. The attacks have sparked outrage among locals and councillors, who branded the thugs’ behaviour as outrageous and shocking. One resident even said her bins had been used to start a fire.

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West Lothian council’s environment teams were alerted to the attack at St Anthony’s on November 6, with the Blackburn Skatepark incident having happened two days later on November 8. Tom Conn, executive councillor for environment, told the Evening News: “This criminal behaviour is outrageous. These parks and play areas are there for the children and the wider community to enjoy. Such reckless behaviour is beyond comprehension.

Blackburn skate park damaged by vandalsBlackburn skate park damaged by vandals
Blackburn skate park damaged by vandals

"The cost of the clean up and repair following fire related damage comes at a significant cost to the council at a time when budgets are extremely stretched. An increase in this sort of damage could potentially impact the ability of the service to carry out upgrades to play equipment. More importantly, it take time to carry out such repairs which means these areas are unavailable for children and families for an unnecessary period. I would implore anyone with information to get in touch with the police.”

Officials said there has been a ‘significant increase’ in fire damage across children’s play areas. Posting on social media the council said: “Unfortunately this bonfire season has seen a significant increase in fire related damage across children's play areas, resulting in costly emergency repairs across a number of sites.

“The council faces a bill of approximately £26,000 to repair play equipment recently damaged by fire related vandalism. This type of extensive damage often takes a long time to repair and can result in temporary play area closure, removal of equipment and months of public spaces looking unsightly. It also reduces the available budgets we have for improving and upgrading other play areas. Should you ever come across this activity then please report it to the police immediately by calling 101.”

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Locals expressed outrage in response to the post. One woman said: “Absolutely shocking, services are already being cut and closed down such as the likes of the swimming pools now the kids think it’s funny and acceptable to destroy what is left for younger kids to actually enjoy… selfish behaviour.”

St Anthony's play park damaged by vandals in fire attackSt Anthony's play park damaged by vandals in fire attack
St Anthony's play park damaged by vandals in fire attack

Many also called for tougher penalties for the culprits, who are said to carry out such attacks throughout the year. One local said: “Unfortunately it seems to be the ‘norm’ for young people to set fires in parks, woods and football pitches using wheelie bins this is a year round problem.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Investigations remain ongoing into multiple reports of reckless use of fireworks throughout West Lothian.

“Officers continue to work with partners to identify and trace individuals involved in the disorder which was completely unacceptable and detrimental to the local community.

"Anyone with information should call Police on 101 or alternatively call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”