Campaigners in South Shore raise enough for two new picnic tables after vandal attack

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A Blackpool park where mindless vandals set fire to a picnic bench is to get two new benches thanks to fundraisers.

 

The bench, used by families making the most of Highfield Park in South Shore, was completely incinerated in the incident in September, leaving behind earth.

The vandals, who are believed to have used an accelerant to fuel the blaze, also damaged plants and ripped up safety surfaces.

But staff at the nearby Tesco Express store, on Highfield Road, decided to do something about it.

(l-r) Lee Ainsworth, Customer Assistant at Tesco with Gary Pennington, Avril Braithwaite, Sylvia Simi and Enid Sharratt from Friends of Highfield Park at the spot where the previous picnic bench was destroyed by fire. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

(l-r) Lee Ainsworth, Customer Assistant at Tesco with Gary Pennington, Avril Braithwaite, Sylvia Simi and Enid Sharratt from Friends of Highfield Park at the spot where the previous picnic bench was destroyed by fire. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Natalie East and Lee Ainsworth, who work as customer assistants at the store, organised a prize draw and put together a hamper packed with goodies as the prize.

The pair, supported by their store manager, were delighted when customers, residents and other local businesses got behind the fundraising campaign and helped raise £750, boosted by a donation from Tesco.

Natalie said: “I saw the burned bench and I just thought it was a shame that facilities for the residents could be destroyed like that.

“I know a few people around here were upset about it as well.

The group at the park's surviving picnic bench.

The group at the park’s surviving picnic bench.

“I decided to organise a prize draw and Lee was really good at promoting it.

“The support we’ve had has been brilliant, I was really pleased we raised so much in such a short time.”

Natalie liaised with the Friends of Highfield Park and Blackpool Council and a replacement picnic bench is to be installed after the New Year.

Gary Pennington, chairman of the Friends of Highfield Park, said: “There were only two picnic benches, so when one of them was destroyed people weren’t happy about it.

“The park is well used and residents like to get together and sit on the benches.

“The way businesses and residents have got together in this way just shows how strong the community spirit is around here.

“We cannot thanks the staff at the local branch of Tesco enough for starting this.”

Gary’s wife Karen Pennington, also a member of the group, added: “It turns out that the money raised can now fund two picnic benches, which will be great for the park after the frustration over the vandalism.”