At the end of January the new Play Hub on Bodmin Road was damaged by vandals. The arson attack involved two recycling bins and, more distressingly, the hugely popular zip wire. A fire was started here destroying both the plastic seat as well as a patch of the rubber safety matting under the zip wire feature. Either this satisfied the arsonists or the flames alerted local residents as the rest of the Play Hub was left undamaged.
The Play Hub was one of Whitleigh Big Local’s biggest success stories and this attack has caused major distress to those whose hard work created this community facility as well as to its many users. It is also a time for us to reflect on the implications.
The police are investigating the incident but are unlikely to identify the culprits without a tip-off. According to a parks official there has been at least one other related incident nearby and maybe the culprits will be caught in the act at some point. Even if they are caught, then what remedies are available? Nothing that will compensate the community for its losses.
Others view this incident as a sign of a wider issue; that the youth of Whitleigh (and adjoining areas) lack sufficient engagement – that they do these things because they are bored, frustrated or even angry with the lack of opportunities for them here. That is one of the challenges facing Whitleigh Big Local and one area where we most need community involvement. (See below)
At the last meeting it was agreed that Plymouth City Council will fund repairs to the Play Hub in this instance, removing the zip wire until the longer days of Spring in the hope that the arsonists have moved on by then, or be more fearful of being identified in the light. Suggestions for fencing or CCTV were dropped in that they incur considerable expense and are not certain of stopping determined attackers.
We sincerely hope that a longer term solution can be found, one where the community takes responsibility for its own property. A major part of this strategy will rely on a team of Young Advisors who are already being recruited and whose suggestions will be used to increase that engagement between youth and the wider community.
Even assuming that this the attack was an act of mindless boredom, not anything personal, it does ask questions of the community. We would love to hear your feedback as well as any suggestions for how this sort of incident can be prevented in the future. It is your involvement that will ensure that Whitleigh remains a decent place to live and raise a family, a true community.
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