St Albans Earthworks facility destroyed by vandals

PUBLISHED: 18:49 09 June 2011

Left to right Trainee Steve Lane and Project leader Phil Maitland inspecting the fire damage caused by vandals.

Left to right Trainee Steve Lane and Project leader Phil Maitland inspecting the fire damage caused by vandals.

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HEARTLESS vandals have destroyed a new structure painstakingly built over the past few months by people with learning disabilities and mental health issues at a local horticultural training charity.

The members and staff at Earthworks in Hixberry Lane, St Albans, have been left devastated by the attack which saw a fire tear along a wooden shed recently built with a lottery grant to store logs prepared at the site.

Between 6pm on Wednesday and 8am on Thursday last week a blaze was started in an oil drum next to the shelter and a separate fire ignited behind it, damaging half of the 16-metre structure beyond repair.

The vandals also threw logs, which formed part of a “bug hotel” to attract insects, into the site’s pond which had recently undergone restoration.

Project co-ordinator Phil Maitland said the mindless attack has not only left the charity out of pocket but has also had a huge and far-reaching impact on the morale of the members who had put so much time and effort into making the structure.

Not only have they been left devastated, but also insecure about the site and some have even told him that they thought that there was no point in carrying on their work.

He said that the charity did not have the money to spend on the repairs nor the time to make them, particularly during the summer months when their main focus was growing organic vegetables to sell on to the public.

He said: “Everyone is so upset. We had been working on this for some months and it is a labour of love so it’s not easy for us to just come back from this, particularly at this time of year when we tend to concentrate more on the vegetable stocks.

“It’s also hard for us as a charity – our money is raised through the hard work the guys put in and the donations and with all of these cuts it’s making things hard as it is even without this.”

He continued: “I should imagine it’s kids – we’ve had a lot of minor damage recently and had put it down to kids being a bit over zealous but this is on another level.”

Steve Lane, one of the 50 to 60 people who regularly attend the site and helped to erect the structure affected, told the Herts Advertiser: “It makes me angry.

“I want to know who the people are and why they are doing this to us. It’s very upsetting for me.”

Police are investigating the incident and Phil is hoping that those responsible are caught and are made to realise the devastating impact their actions have had on everyone at the site.

Pc Chris Fisher, investigating, said: “This is heartless, mindless vandalism callously caused by individuals without a care for the impact they will cause on those who use this facility. The site is funded by donations and grants, so has impacted the site organisers greatly as well.

“I am appealing for anyone who may have seen suspicious activity in the area at the time or is aware of anyone hanging around the project to get in touch.

“We take incidents of this kind very seriously and will be doing everything we can to bring the offenders to justice.”

Anyone with information should call Pc Fisher on 0845 33 00 222.

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