Beeston park sees huge spike in fires

Cross Flatts Park in Beeston has seen a significant increase in fires this winter. South Leeds Life has been canvassing opinion from park users and residents who overlook the park

Firefighters put out a fire in Cross Flatts Park Sunday 5 March 2017. Photo: Bruce Davies

In news that will come at little surprise to locals, the Fire Service has attended over 40 fires in the park the past 6 months. This marks a major increase from previous years: there were just 4 fires reported in the whole of 2015, 22 in 2014, 11 in 2013, and 19 in 2012.

With each call out costing an estimated £1,000, this puts the cost of these fires at over £40,000, not including repairing any damage caused. This is at a time when central government is cutting funding to the Fire Service. West Yorkshire Fire Service has seen a £21.9m cut in the past five years, with a further £15m due to be slashed by 2020.

The main concern to park users is damage to the lawns, the Multi-Use Games Area, and the children’s play equipment at the well-used top end of the park.

Linda Stanley from Beeston in Bloom said:

“Damage to our projects is inevitable, as they are in open public places. But the vandalism in Cross Flatts Park since November is inexcusable: signage melted, plants reduced to cinder, paving scorched.

“It’s distressing. Councillors, the Friends of Cross Flatts Park group, the Council Parks staff, and Beeston in Bloom have worked hard for the last 20 years to make the park a welcoming space. It’s just a shame that a small number of thoughtless individuals are spoiling it.”

Ed Carlisle, local resident and representative for Leeds Green Party in the area, commented:

“Great work’s been done in the past 10-15 years, by local people and agencies, to improve our park – so it’s gutting to see it being damaged like this. The new CCTV will hopefully make a difference, and of course there’s always a need for more policing. But I also think we should be thinking creatively about this.

“For example, it’s not a popular idea, but could we not consider creating a firepit at the underused bottom end of the park near Dewsbury Road, to divert people away from the top end? One of the north Leeds parks has an informal firepit, and local people there say it really works. Or if not that, are their other more creative approaches to this problem?”

South Leeds Life understands that both the Fire Service and the Council’s Parks and Countryside have concerns about the possibility of a fire pit.

But resident Jon Gomm commented:

“It might inevitably create issues, but many people around here already have fires in their yards, so they’d accept it. If it helped protect the play areas at the top end, it might not be a bad thing. Is it worth a try?”

Another resident who overlooks the park Sally Cieslik said:

“This sounds like a good idea if there’s a way of managing it. There is already a tree trunk area, where people seem to gather and sometimes play musical instruments. But there are of course risks around people drinking and messing around with fire.”

What do you think? Could a fire pit reduce the problem? What other solutions should be considered?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below:


5 Replies to “Beeston park sees huge spike in fires”

  1. Again it may not be a popular idea but do what used to happen years ago and close the park after a certain time. In the dark I can’t imagine many people will use the park or walk through it but those up to no good probably will. Put a fence round and put in some gates during the winter open the park 7-5 and in summer 6-9. Yes people might climb over the fences and gates but if they only want to damage or set fire to something will they really go to the effort of getting in?

    1. So what you have just said is -The ones who want to cause damage will climb over. Nobody else will be able to get in. Less people to spot the damage. Longer for emergency services to get in. Catching the culprits is the end to the problem. Loads of people cut through the park and walk their dogs after and before those times and even more would if they felt safe doing it. Who would be employed to lock and open the gates that you have just said wont stop the gremlins. Zero tolerance I think is what is now needed and all the people that cover for the ones they know are doing the damage and attacks should wise up and tell the police who they are otherwise in a few years when they want to take their children to a nice park it wont be there.

  2. or me, the real question is would a fire pit deter people already illegally setting fires elsewhere in the park and damaging the hard work of the local community? I can see a fire pit being used by residents on both sides of the park as a community facility, but I’d suspect these aren’t the people who’ve been setting the fires at the moment. Beyond that, how would usage of the pit be managed to prevent household waste not being burnt or other hazardous materials, or misused in general? If the fire service and Council have reservations – should we be not listening to their experience on this – particular the fire service? Hopefully, the CCTV system will become a deterrence and facilitate the police catching the people destroying this community asset.

    1. Hi Paul, I’ve responded in full below. (Subsiduary comments/responses don’t always appear to other readers.)

  3. Hi Paul. As with so many things in life: yes, no, and maybe. Would a firepit ‘deter’ people? No, the whole point is that it might (maybe, not definitely) divert some of them away from the infrastructure and lawns at the top end of the park, to the scruffier underused bottom end – and also therefore concentrate waste to one location, if it works. This is maybe not an ideal solution, but it’s a stab at finding a pragmatic one. And as to whether we should listen to the experience of the fire service / Council / etc: institutions will almost always adopt a conservative/play-it-safe approach, which has its place, but always needs to be questioned by those outside the system, to consider risk, creative responses, etc. We can then ideally find wise solutions that balance the two impulses/perspectives. Finally: CCTV will hopefully make some impact, but is it going to help crack down on fires? I very much doubt it, unfortunately.

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