"Fight" dogs cause playground damage

PUBLISHED: 12:54 21 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 11 May 2010

Play equipment at the Newmarket Road playground

Play equipment at the Newmarket Road playground

CHILDRENS play equipment in Royston could be lost for good because it is being used to train dogs for illegal fights. North Herts District Council have threatened to pull the plug on funding repairs to play areas after more damage was caused to swings at

CHILDRENS play equipment in Royston could be lost for good because it is being used to train dogs for illegal fights.

North Herts District Council have threatened to pull the plug on funding repairs to play areas after more damage was caused to swings at Newmarket Road.

The district council recently spent almost £60,000 fixing vandalised play equipment in the town, and say they may not be able to keep providing cash to fill a "seemingly endless black hole".

A spokesman for the district council said: "The latest vandalism took place at Newmarket Road, where swing seats have been damaged by dogs. It is thought that Staffordshire bull terriers have been ordered to grip onto the plastic seats by their owners who then swing them round to strengthen the dogs' jaws for fighting.

"Councillors and officers are now debating whether they can afford to go on pouring cash into a seemingly endless black hole," she said.

Cllr F John Smith, leader of district council and a councillor for Royston Meridian ward, said: "It is going to be a tragedy if this new equipment is damaged any further. We are facing an extremely serious situation.

"The last thing we want to do is stop small children playing. They have done nothing wrong and would be punished for the selfish wilful actions of people old enough to know better."

Earlier this month, Cllr Smith condemned a "mindless minority" who had damaged play equipment at sites in Newmarket Road, Serby Avenue, and Priory Gardens.

The £60,000 bill for repairing these sites took a third of the district council's total budget for repairing playgrounds, which has to stretch to 51 children's play areas across North Herts.

Cllr Smith added: "The district council is already facing a very difficult financial situation and just does not have a bottomless pit to keep repairing equipment that is damaged within weeks.

"We need the community in Royston to stand up for its children and make sure that the vandals are stopped. Anyone seeing anything suspicious should contact the police straight away," he said.

In the wake of the original vandalism, Pc Nick Musto, from the Royston Safer Neighbourhood panel, told The Crow that police would be "increasing the number of patrols in the vicinity" in a bid to crack down on vandals.

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