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Thursday, 21 September 2017
THE skate park in Sonning Common will be closed for up to two weeks after it was targeted by vandals.
Three golf buggies, fencing, bins and benches were set alight at the facility in Bishopswood recreation ground in the early hours of Wednesday last week.
The heat from the fire has damaged the concrete, making it unusable by skaters until it is repaired.
Parish clerk Philip Collings said new fencing had been ordered but would take two to three weeks to be delivered and installed.
He said: “Hopefully it will be properly repaired in the next week or two. The concrete is all burnt and broken from the heat, so we need to get it cleaned up then properly replaced.
“The damage has mainly been caused by the heat from the fire. It’s just an inch on the surface but it is dangerous to use for the wheels.”
The vandals stole the buggies from Caversham Heath Golf Club, near Mapledurham, and used them to smash through fencing at the course. The golf club estimates that replacement equipment and repairs will cost tens of thousands of pounds.
The joyriders took the buggies to Sonning Common and then used the machines to smash fencing and benches before starting the blaze, which was spotted by residents at about 5am.
The police are treating the incident as suspected arson.
Carole Lewis, chairwoman of the parish council, said most of the cost would be covered by insurance.
She said: “The debris has been cleared away and the surface has been cleaned but we have made no more progress than that. I found it particularly irritating that it wasn’t enough for them to rip down the fences, they had to burn them as well.”
The skate park cost £100,000 to build and opened in May 2015.
Councillor Lewis said: “Now we have a whole pile of fencing that is not fit for purpose.
“It is the beginning of the school holidays and there would usually be a lot of kids using the skate park but it’s like a morgue at the moment.
“These thugs, if they targeted the skate park, clearly would not have thought about anything like that.”
Cllr Lewis said she hoped someone would come forward with information to identify the vandals. The parish council has put up posters around the village to encourage tip-offs to the police.
Cllr Lewis said: “We can only hope that we get a little snippet of information so we can find out who these people are. It appears nobody has come forward so far.”
Rotherfield United Football Club, which is also based at the recreation ground, hopes to raise £6,000 to replace four of its goals which were damaged by the vandals. It has already collected more than £700.
Club chairman Andy Tidswell, from Peppard, said the new season was about to start so the new equipment was badly needed.
He said: “We are a central part of the community and many people have a direct connection to the club through either playing football in a team or because their children do or maybe they use our fields for exercise and recreation.
“We are run by volunteers and funded by our parents, grants and donations, so we were shocked to see the damage to our goals and equipment.
“The new season is fast approaching and we desperately need to repair and replace the goals.”
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14 August 2017