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
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: