It has been just over a week since the fire in Valley Gardens destroyed part of the children’s play area and things have taken big steps forward since then.
During the week there has been a visible out pouring of emotions towards what happened. Much of this can been seen with comments on facebook calling for the people involved to be named and shamed or being called to pay the cost of the repairs. Having people publicly named prior to trial could prejudice the work being done by the Police however.
The site has now been cleared and the focus is moving more to the future. The insurers assessed the damaged on Thursday and the council are now awaiting confirmation on the figure that they will receive.
Councillor Caroline Bayliss Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Sports, explained:
The fort cost the Council £50,000 to buy and to install, and whatever claim we make on our policy, there will be a £2,500 excess to pay. The council will seek to reclaim any losses from the person or persons found guilty of this crime.
When we come round to replacing the fort, we will ask for views on exactly what piece of equipment should replace it. Some changes may be wanted, and we will take all opinions into account.
We are going to work hard to have it replaced as soon as we possibly can.
Not everyone is welcome in the play park!
This weekend has seen a busy Valley Gardens with the Harrogate Council providing a free bouncy castle following an idea given to them by Harrogate-News. The initial idea was to raise money for the cost of the bouncy castle with an appeal, but the Council kindly decided to pay the cost themselves.
The skate park is normally busy, with this weekend being no exception. The tennis courts even saw people playing tennis and the play area was also busy with many families bringing their children to play.
The area where the fort was remains fenced off, with only bare earth indicating what was once there. This did attract some minimal attention from parents but didn’t detract from their use or fun from the other play equipment.
There was a positive mood among Councillor Caroline Bayliss, Andrew Jones MP, and the leader of the Council, Don Mackenzie, all of whom came along on Saturday morning to see the children enjoy the park.
David Ritson, the Manager of the Old Swan Hotel and head of Destination Harrogate, the group set-up to promote Tourism commented:
As a father myself I know how disappointed my child was when they saw what had happened, but hats-off to Harrogate Council for tacking this so quickly and providing a free bouncy castle this weekend.
This is a valuable green space in the town that is very important to the tourism and hotels within the town.
It really is the jewel in the crown of Harrogate.
The public is now looking closely at the progress being made in the investigations with a strong pressure to gain quick results. The Police have visibly responded well, securing the site of the fire quickly and then establishing a team in response.
They affected 8 arrests within 48 hours of the incident, released 4 with no further action and 4 remain on bail pending further investigations.
The fact that 4 have been released on bail should not be viewed as negative, more of a reflection on the complexity of the case and the need to continue investigations before any charges are made, whether to those on bail or others.
Caroline Bayliss Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Sports with Andrew Jones MP
Will Scarlett, the Police Inspector for Harrogate Safer Neighbourhoods explained:
We made significant developments on this case very quickly and investigations have continued all week. There is a large team of people working on this from the fire investigators, uniformed officers, CID and forensics.
Although we have gathered a lot of intelligence over the week, we are still looking for further witnesses or anybody that has information to come forward. Also, if you were involved more directly then we would urge you do the right thing and come and talk to us.
With cases like this there is always a lot of forensics that can connect people with the incidence and that just takes time to process.
We have also followed the public outpouring of emotion in the media to what has happened. We can appreciate entirely the reasons for this and can assure the public that we are doing all that we can to bring the people to account that did this.
We need to be sensible and keep in mind that an incident of this type is a very rare occurrence indeed.
If you can assist the police, please contact DC Helen Quaife at Harrogate CID on 0845 60 60 24 7 quoting reference number 12110170679.
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