VANDALISM to Barnsley’s parks and play areas during lockdown has cost the local authority close to £20,000, the Chronicle can reveal.

Antisocial behaviour has been a blight on the borough this year, with Barnsley Council recording 19 incidents which have required staff to carry out costly repairs at recreational areas since March.

The council estimates it has spent £8,000 on repairs to tarmac alone at eight of its skate parks and multi-use games areas (MUGAs) across the borough since March, due to wheelie bin fires and bonfires left by vandals.

A further £4,200 has been set aside for repairs to play equipment such as swings and climbing frames, £4,000 to safety surfacing and £2,745 to gates and fencing.

The most recent act of vandalism took place in Worsbrough Dale Park, on High Street, at 8.20pm on Saturday, where rubbish was set alight deliberately and saw firefighters from Cudworth station attend.

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Further incidents have taken place at Kendray, Mapplewell and Ward Green in the last six weeks.

Figures obtained from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue show there have been 26 recorded fires at parks and play areas since May, with a spike in October leading to firefighters being called on 16 times.

Officers from Barnsley West’s neighbourhood team were made aware of issues at Ward Green Community Park and a section 35 dispersal order was put in place - meaning yobs could ultimately be arrested if they failed to follow instructions to leave the area.

Worsbrough Coun Jake Lodge told the Chronicle: “It’s a shocking figure considering it’s only in the last eight months.

“Certainly for people in my ward, and across the borough, these parks are vital to wellbeing at the minute.

“It’s a shame that what’s happening - just mindless vandalism - is stopping people from using them. It’s a regular occurrence in Worsbrough, unfortunately.

“I have a four-year-old and we use the park near us regularly, and all the comments from families and parents are the same - why do people have to do it?

“It’s more than likely that the people who are doing this, in a few years their kids will be using the same parks.”

According to figures from the end of 2018, vandalism at parks’ play areas and MUGAs across Barnsley cost more than £100,000 to rectify in the previous five years, with Cudworth and Shafton among the worst-hit.

“You look at the situation we’re in, and realistically we can’t keep spending money because of people’s vandalism,” said Coun Lodge.

“It’s taxpayers’ money being wasted on people’s recklessness on an evening. We need to maintain our parks and keep them, but we need every resident behind it.

“We do regular clean-ups in parks around Worsbrough - but when you see three days later it’s worse than you went in, it’s not just the monetary cost, it’s the volunteer cost.

“Volunteers get disheartened.

“All I’d ask is if somebody knows who’s doing it, contact the police, or get in touch with your local councillors and we’ll report it for you.”

A Barnsley Council spokesperson said: “We’re incredibly proud of our parks, and know that they’re vitally important to the physical and mental health of our residents as a safe space, particularly during the pandemic.

“It’s a shame that we’ve seen many instances of people breaching Covid-19 regulations by meeting with other households in groups committing antisocial behaviour and arson across several parks in the borough over recent weeks, causing damage to equipment and the environment.

“This behaviour is not only dangerous to those committing the acts, but also those around them, including innocent bystanders or passers-by who are trying to enjoy our parks and green spaces.

“The pandemic has stretched resources for essential services like the police and fire service, and they need to be available to deal with genuine emergencies.

“If you’re visiting our parks, please be respectful to others and follow Covid-19 guidance at all times to allow people to have a safe and enjoyable experience.

“If you see any antisocial behaviour in our parks or green spaces, please call 101 or 999 in an emergency.”