Play Equipment Destroyed in Valley Gardens

8 October 2011

At 2:30am on 8th October 2011, Fire Crews extinguished a fire on a large wooden fort in the play area of Valley Gardens. As a result of the fire the fort sustained 100% fire damage (an area of 100sqmetres)

All that now remains is a large amount of charred timber. The adjacent trees also show a degree of burning to branches some 20 feet up, giving an indication over the ferocity of the blaze.

The area has remained cordoned off throughout the morning as the incident is investigated by Crime Scene Investigation (CSI), CID and Fire Service inspectors. The Police are also conducting an information gathering exercise.

Door to door enquiries have commenced on residents on Valley Drive to gain witness statements and the area is being extensively searched for further evidence. Don Mackenzie, leading of Harrogate Council said:

If this is indeed a case of arson, which seems likely, then we all have every right to be very angry indeed. This is a very popular play area, which provides so much fun and enjoyment for our children. We simply cannot tolerate such mindless vandalism and will take whatever steps are needed to help catch the culprits. Better security arrangements for Valley Gardens during the hours of darkness may be needed.

Councillor Caroline Bayliss the Cabinet Member for Cultural services travelled straight to Valley Gardens as soon as she heard the news. Councillor Bayliss has been a key figure in developing Valley Gardens and the new Skate Park and was visibly upset. Councillor Caroline Bayliss Cabinet Member for Cultural Services said:

This is one of the best children’s playgrounds in the country and we are just very shocked and sorry for what has happened. The Council will do all we can to replace it as soon as possible.

Enquiries remain ongoing to examine the full circumstances surrounding the incident and police are carrying out patrols in the area to reassurance the local community and visitors to the park. The Police have made an appeal for witness with any information in relation to this incident. If you were in the area of Valley Gardens in the early hours of this morning or you have have other information then please call Harrogate Police on 0845 60 60 247


  1. Shame on the parents of the feral yobs responsible for destroying something which has given so many families and children pleasure. If these families are receiving benefits they should ALL be put towards the cost of rebuilding this fort.

    These yobs clearly got pleasure from this mindless act, what does that tell of us how they have been raised? Everything sadly!

    • Do YOU have evidence that it was yobs? Until you do, you should not automatically blame ANY particular group or age of people. If you do have evidence then you should be sharing it with the police…

      • Re: Comment from ‘Karen’ – This is exactly the sort of idiotic response expected from, thankfully the lesser majority of our humdrum society. Just exactly what sort of ‘group’ of people do you think might have caused such damage? Possibly a local PTA group or maybe, even the Brownies? Get a grip, Karen!

      • Whoever it was Karen, regardless of groups or ages, these people are yobs. In case you didn’t know, a yob is a rowdy, aggressive or violent person. I rest my case.

      • just a reply to the lady who said it might not be yobs who else would it be normal upstanding people maybe u should think about what you have said

      • It was yobs! This just goes to show the minority of yobs in our Harrogate community who don’t appreciate what a beautiful and safe place it is….but it’s only going to get worse with the plans for new affordable housing targets by Harrogate council in the next 5 years! Another Jennyfields near Harlow Carr….no thank you.

      • I blame the parents, they should spend more time educating there children instead of waiting in the DSS office for false crisis loans and dole money. I can guess where abouts they will live and it certainly wont be my side of town, rah rah

        i bet the petrol money came from my tax payments, makes me sick these underclass people have behaved in this way, throw the keys away i say. rah rah

      • In this case i agree with Karen,

        Yob – A rude, noisy, and aggressive young man.

        Obviously directed at a certain group, for all the police know it could have been a group of OAPs, you cannot say it is unlikely because you are as much in the dark as everyone else – LLC

  2. Its disgusting! Unfortunately the police might have a job on their hands with catching these idiots as there is little to no CCTV in the area. The council should put up a reward and watch the scrubbers come forward with information about these benefit-claiming idiots. Then they should be publicly humiliated. The days where people get away lightly with things have to stop!!!
    Lets hope they are caught!

    • er, benefit-claiming idiots?? A Reed, don’t be so bloody offensive and

      A yob is not automatically someone claiming benefits.

      Let’s face it, in Harrogate it is just as likely to be cocaine-snorting, middle-class yobs…..

    • I sincerely hope that the CCTV towers that are scattered (sparsely admittedly) around the ground will have caught something. My daughter plays there every other day pretty much and I cannot describe how livid I am.

  3. If you know who did this name and shame the scum. There is little enough for children to do in Harrogate and it’s taken forever to get this built. Its a real shame

  4. I’m so saddened to see this. My kids love this park and was delighted when it was built a couple of years ago. In the face of all the problems with the economy this is the last thing the council needs. I do hope however it will be replaced. Disgusting behavior.

  5. There have been idiots roaming the valley gardens at night for decades, perhaps the lesson to be learned is lock it up after dark, install CCTV and maybe restrict the play area itself with a higher fence such as around the tennis courts and have the gates into it locked between say 8pm and 8am. Just a thought. Also I’d like to see the people responsible for the damage work to rebuild it too and yes if on benefits, suspend it until they complete the job. I’m absolutely disgusted with this softly softly nation, people are out of control because there are no consequences to their actions!!

    • At least this is a reasoned response and therefore I agree with your sentiments. You are not making assumptions or finger pointing without evidence: Just saying what most people think.

  6. I am absolutely disgusted – my three boys have loved this playground and I have spent many happy hours watching them and other children play there for the past 10 years. What happened to the CCTV camera overlooking the park? Is there evidence available? Find and deal with these mindless vandals. My boys cannot understand why this should happen to their playground!

  7. Unfortunately this goes to show that even in one of the nicest towns in the country scum can still have an influence on the lives of hard working people who want to bring their kids up in the right way.

    • As someone who works with teenagers every day, in my experience it is most often those who have hard working and respectable parents and are the picture of responsibility in front of family who can turn feral when left to their own devices.
      Unfortunately, when challenged they respond with arrogance and their parent/carers tend to back them up and refuse to believe that their children would ever behave this way or lie to them.
      Social status and background, postcode and income do not mean that young people are above reproach; any more than being on benefits or wearing a hood means that you are ‘scum’, ‘chav’ or any of the other stereotypical labels that are being leveled at the culprits.

      • Karen, you seem to be quite a confused lady. I’m making the assumption that you are also the commenter on the first post, where you decided that the term ‘yobs’ meant ‘teenagers’.

        Now, here, you have decided that the term ‘scum’ means a teenager from a poor background? Mike Armistead has pointed out that scum can have an influence on good people’s lives. He didn’t say, “poor people’s children are scum and it’s obviously down to them”. You seem to have drawn that from his comments though…somehow?

        By scum, I think Mike means that whoever burnt the play area down is against living in a civilised society. Scum = someone wanting to spoil something good and decent, for their own selfish reasons (fun?). It is not an age or background related term Karen, they could be rich scum or poor scum, young scum or old scum, but they are scum all the same. What they have done is a pathetic, mindless and moronic. I think Mike referring to them as ‘scum’ is quite right.

  8. I live in Norfolk but was at Valley Gardens yesterday with my daughter and grandson. I commented on what a great facility the play areas was and how well kept (as is the whole of the town). What a shame that the behaviour of a few people can spoil it.

  9. Who gives you the right to blame it on people with benefits?
    To be perfectly honest its probably kids who don’t have there parents around, most likely people who are more well off.
    And how can you be sure it wasn’t your kids???

  10. Its alright the kids will probably still be happy to play on it, they might just need a clean up afterwards.

  11. Why do most people automatically assume it’s Kids or Young People and go down the ‘blame the parents’ route. I think most kids and young people in Harrogate up to a certain age have enjoyed this play equipment and it’s part of their history. I know my children of secondary school age were shocked and upset, as were all their peers. There was much colourful language used to describe the perpertrators and strong feelings displayed via their social networking sites all day yesterday. They all spend a lot of time at The Valley Gardens and The Skate Park. There is CCTV footage. The truth will be outed and then I hope people will be ashamed to have automatically blamed kids and Young People

  12. What a shame that two or three people can make people so angry about those on benefits… when there is no evidence they are from these backgrounds themselves. Joe is right these kids could be anyone’s. It is horrible this has happened and I do hope that the people who did it are caught and made to pay. Valley Gardens as it is, is a gift to all our children and it frustrating that there are people in Harrogate who can’t appreciate this.

    • I think Debrah has hit the nail on the head, the Valley Gardens IS a gift to our community and we have no way of knowing what demographic the perpetrators involved are from until they are caught, which hopefully won’t take too long. No matter who is responsible, they should be made to pay for the damage, help rebuild the fort and receive the 300 hours community service of cleaning public toilets as Will suggested.

  13. I am so so saddened by this news. My little boy of 22 months loves this playground and we have spent many hours watching him toddle around in sheer excitement. The fact that anyone would do this is absolutely disgusting and they need to be held accountable for their actions. And that does not mean a namby-pamby punishment; it’s about time people recieve punishment to fit the crime. In this case? Tarred and feathered perhaps…..

  14. I was sat outside near the Blues Bar the night this happened and yes I was with your typical young, bored teenagers who were doing nothing more than having a laugh and whilst we were sat there we saw a group of MIDDLE AGED men start a mini bonfire on the flower bed outside the Slug and Lettuce so how do you know it wasn’t them that moved on from their failing bonfire to torch the castle in the Valley Gardens?
    Exactly no-one currently knows who did this so can people please stop speculating, as a young person that has just turned 18 it really aggravates me when something like this happens as everyone turns to blaming young people and teenagers and quite a lot of us then feel like people just use us as an easy target for the blame instead of residing themselves to the fact that it could very well have been someone of an older age.

    • Hi Danielle, trust you have reported this to the police as who knows, perhaps you did spot the arsonists? It’s a shame that people come on here and start pointing the finger at stereotypes. This really could have been anyone, sick morons are sadly of many different ages and from any background. Let’s just hope they catch those responsible and shame them. As I mentioned in a later post though, the courts are powerless to deal with them properly and a slap on the wrist will do nothing to deter the next moron from spoiling honest people’s enjoyment.

    • How do we know? I don’t believe ‘we’ or anyone know, but one thing is for sure, in a playground that HAS had a problem with teenagers at night, and I’ve walked up Valley Drive in the evening many times and witnessed this (AND for that matter, reported it against a brick wall), it is PROBABLY more likely. Still, it is wrong to assume. Fair enough.

  15. I don’t have kids but even so when this was build I was pleased as was everyone I know who’s children are of an age to play there. From my experience its as likely to be middle class kids as anyone as when I was growing up both parents were working all hours and often left all the kids I knew unsupervised, mind we knew the trouble we would be in if anything happened. Who ever did the damage should be made to pay for it ie pay the money it costs to fix it. Would make others think twice about doing the same, if they don’t have jobs they would have to do the equivalent of community service to the same value doing some thing really horrible like cleaning public toilets and picking up dog poo.

  16. Once the culprits have been caught – they should be named and shamed. Perhaps the stocks should be brought back and we can hurl rotten veg at them…(on top of the hours of community service they should do – in bright pink overalls). That will make anyone with mal-intent towards any community think twice about the consequences of their actions. However hard you may think you are, no-one likes to be shunned or outcast. And, whether they are from wealthy families or on benefits (as with these things social class has no boundaries) – they should not only help to rebuild but also pay for the damage financially!

  17. As a youth I spent many a night roaming the valley gardens drinking and larking around (14-17ish), having general fun and games and meeting all sorts of new people. not once did we destroy anything or cause damage of any amount and the bins were always used to discard our rubbish, tins etc. We did this as we had nowhere else to hang out. Harrogate has never really provided for the youth of its community and so we have had to make do with what we have. We were always labelled as ‘yobs’ no matter what we did. Unfortunately there was always the odd delinquent who spoilt it for the rest of us and gave us all bad names. As I have grown older (now 24), the harrogate council has started to see the needs of the youth of it’s community and the change in attitude has been for the better and been very positive. With the arrival of an excellent play park and a top class skate park the youths have had something to do and, as some of my friends were very much involved in the go-ahead of the skate park, have been extremely proud of looking after and promoting such facilities.
    What has happened has been disgusting and everyone I have spoken to or seen their views on facebook etc have also been disgusted.
    This will not be an event from the local youths or members of the skate-park etc, ‘yobs’ maybe but I very much doubt they are regular Valley garden users.

  18. I have had my previous comment ‘moderated’ but I would still like to say that my 2 boys will be really upset. I wont be able to go to valley gardens again because who wants to explain to a 4 year old that someone has burnt down the playground for no reason?
    I hope they get them and the council finds the money to rebuild it.

  19. Love how we’ve got discussions going on about the “class” of the “Kids” who did this. Never mind class…who the hell says this was young people? It could have been any kind of drunkards on a saturday night. Yet you all wonder why young people do carry out acts of vandalism when all you do is expect it from them? How about having some respect for young people and not jumping the gun to blame them for everything. I’m 17 and I don’t know anyone who would do this, and I don’t know anyone who isn’t appauled. Have some respect.

  20. I hope the culprits are found and then named and shamed. They should damn well have to face all the people and the children they have upset by this. If they are youngsters they shouldn’t get any anonymity. WE WANT TO KNOW WHO THEY ARE!!! Assuming they are youths, these feral low lifes should not be allowed to tarnish the image of the many decent youngsters in this town. The majority of people whether young or old, claiming benefits or not will be appalled at this senseless vandalism.

  21. danielle if you did see middle age men doing a mini bonfire,then why have you not gone forward to the police,and get these idiots behind bars.

  22. This is such sad and pathetic mindless vandalism. Unfortunately, even if they catch the vermin responsible, our poor justice system won’t deal with them effectively. They should be made to work full time with whoever is rebuilding the play area and then serve a lengthy prison term. How else can we deter other brain dead vandals from destroying something so enjoyed by innocent children?

  23. Its the wrong argument to have over what class of people have done this. what matters is that whoever has commited this act of suspected arson is dealt with in a serious manner. this will send a message to anyone else thinking of this type of behaviour that you will be punished properly if they commit such crimes.
    Thanks to the sensible people of harrogate we no longer have a lib dem mp that would go weak at the knee’s at the thought of punishment. we have a conservative mp and a conservative goverment so there is no excuse that the punishment not should be strong. why should descent hard working people of this town go ignored any longer just to satisfy the minority liberals that have desimated the whole country over the past 20 years.

  24. I have never heard of an incident like this being caused by anyone other than feral kids – so unless this is unique I think it’s safe to assume that that is who would do it.
    It’s the same problem as the riots – people having children and not bringing them up to have any respect for other people, including families who use the park.

  25. all the comments about it being the skate park kids,
    think about this, the skate park kids despise when young children come onto the park, they often shout “play in the play park!”.

  26. I am absolutely disgusted and saddened, like many others. in Leeds and have enjoyed many lovely days out in Valley Gardens with my 4 year old son and my nieces and nephews. Its by far the best park around that every one can get enjoyment from at no charge. And can not believe the low lifes that would get kicks out of destroying something the whole region gets enjoyment out of. I hope the culprits are brought to justice and named and shamed. These type of people yes yobs never change they need to be punished and be made to pay. Its Disgusting

  27. I’m sick to death of these stupid comments on what the definition of what a yob is and we should blame the parents. It’s sad to say that these comments are typical of today’s politically correct, healthy and safety driven society. There is a small minority who are too rich or too stupid or just pure evil and don’t think and don’t care about their actions to their community. Whoever is responsible should be publically humiliated and named and shamed in the centre of Harrogate and made to rebuild the wooden fort paid from their rich parent’s collage fund. Failing that we should burn their price possession. This should give them something to think about. It’s a shame that the general public are made to pay for the idiotic selfish actions of the minority who don’t give a dam and who could pay for the rebuild but due to today’s society it would not be right because it would be too upsetting. What about the feeling of the small children and parents who got pleasure and enjoyment from using the fort.

  28. At 2.30am in the morning it is very unlikely to be teenagers, I live on Valley Drive and at that time in a morning you get quite a lot of groups coming out of town usually drunk and taking the short cut through the park to their expensive houses at the other side.

  29. wow i also loved this park so much i thing its a great community area i have gone through valley gardens at night and i have seen teenagers on the fort so i dont know it seems a shame it dosent give a very nice impression to tourists they should put CCTV and i hope this is replaced

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