Arsonists cause £65k worth of damage to Ballymena park
"Mindless" vandals caused over £65,000 worth of damage to a children's play-park in Ballymena in an arson attack.
Extensive damage has been caused to the People's Park which was targeted on Sunday night.
The damage left the popular area structurally unsafe, and now local children will have no access to the facility over the summer months.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Audrey Wales said the earliest the structure could be removed and replaced would be the autumn.
The DUP councillor said it would cost in excess of £65,000 to repair it.
"The extent of the fire damage is significant and has meant that fencing will have to be erected around the whole multi-play area to keep children from entering," she said.
"In effect, this mindless act means that our children are now being denied the chance to play outdoors throughout the summer months.
"It looks like the structure cannot be repaired as the uprights have been badly burnt, making it structurally unsafe which is a dreadful shame."
The councillor added that the arson attack was "wholly unacceptable" and that a "pointless act of sheer vandalism" has destroyed an important resource for local children.
"As we are now into the brighter nights when children should be outside enjoying the park, this is particularly galling," she added.
"Pending reports, most if not all of the play area equipment will have to be demolished and replaced at considerable cost to the ratepayer."
Many people in the Ballymena area reacted angrily to the vandalism on social media.
A number of Facebook users called for CCTV to be erected in the area.
"Disgraceful, we need proper security in the area," one said.
Paul Frew, MLA for North Antrim also condemned the arson attack.
The DUP politician tweeted: "I have spent years fighting for play-park upgrades all over Ballymena borough.
"The vandalism at the People's Park is an absolute disgrace."
Police investigating the significant damage have called for witnesses to come forward.
Inspector Doris Purvis said: "It is an absolute shame that damage has been caused to a play area that benefits so many children in the local area and I would strongly urge anyone with information about who is responsible to contact us on the 101 non-emergency number.
"Equally, if you saw any suspicious activity at the park overnight or during the early hours of this morning, please get in touch with us."