Volunteers ‘sickened’ by bandstand arson attack

VOLUNTEERS who have put all their efforts into making sure a Denton park does not fall victim to anti-social behaviour have been left ‘sickened’ at a recent arson attack.

And Friends of Victoria Park admit they are concerned about what the spring and summer will bring.

The most recent incident saw a fire started on the Victorian bandstand at the centre of the area – a return to dark days.

Previously, youths intimidated bowlers to the point they left the green and there was a spate of physical and verbal threatening behaviour.Now Tony Moran, chair of Friends of Victoria Park and secretary of Denton Park Social Bowling Club, is worried about what may lie around the corner.

He told The Correspondent: “As volunteers and custodians of the park we are sickened to the point of ‘What next?’ as we approach the lighter nights and a new 2022 bowling season.

“Once again anti-social behaviour has returned to Victoria Park, along with an arson attack to the bandstand.

“This all the efforts of Friends of Victoria Park and Denton Bowling Club volunteers working in partnership with police in Tameside, neighbourhood safety and Tameside Council’s Green Space team, which is responsible in maintaining the park and its security.

“Recent events are a plague on our society and we can no longer allow this kind of behaviour, which must not be allowed to continue.

“Enough is enough and we need the assistance of other agencies to work in partnership with us if we are to combat the issue of anti-social behaviour.”

After issues dating back to 2017, measures have been out in place at Victoria Park, with the installation of a perimeter fence, which was paid for through a combination of the police’s proceeds of crime fund, Action Together, Manchester Airport Trust and donations by local businesses – but mostly by club members’ donations and fundraising events.

Tony added: “The perimeter fencing has been very successful in reducing the amount of incidents to the green and was a great help in making our members and visiting guests feel safe and protected from undesired verbal comments and from youths riding electric scooters on the green.

“Last summer after a spate of physical and verbal threatening behaviour by youths, the community rallied round in support of our members and the general public using the park.

“Andrew Gwynne MP and local councillors also offered support and advice, actioning Tameside youth services to help in identifying the problem of young people in the park area.

“This resulted in an immediate reduction in anti-social behaviour and the start of an improved era of engaging with local youths and community groups.”

January’s arson attacks have undoubtedly been a setback to the aims of making Victoria Park more secure.

But Tony insisted the police are fully on board with the aims of everyone involved and action may be taken.

If that happens, then the sense of pride – both among those leading the fight and in the town – can grow.

He said: “We are encouraged by the recent appointment of Chief Superintendent Rob Cousen and Chief Inspector Claire Galt and Inspector Abed Hussain, the officers responsible for neighbourhood policing in Denton, who are fully committed to addressing these crimes.

“Victoria Park is the only green space area in the town centre and was originally designed to be enjoyed by everyone in the town as an area to feel safe in, benefitting from the surrounding greenery and use of the open space facilities.

“Victoria Park and its surrounding facilities are one community hub, from the community centre to the library and bowling green facilities in the park.

“All are connected to the civic square and all areas play a major part of the town’s facilities being used by the community.

“They also showcase Denton town centre as a place to be proud of – that’s the bigger picture we should strive towards.”

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