Arson sees community garden centrepiece wrecked

Coun Karen Aldred, Keith Sumner, chairman of Atherton Environmental Projects, and teacher Tina Farrow, with pupils from St Philips CE Primary School with the remains of the bespoke willow statue
Coun Karen Aldred, Keith Sumner, chairman of Atherton Environmental Projects, and teacher Tina Farrow, with pupils from St Philips CE Primary School with the remains of the bespoke willow statue

The centrepiece of a community garden has been destroyed in a callous arson attack.

The willow-weaved statue of a woman and child collecting flowers had been installed at Blue Bell Boundary Gardens as part of a project by Atherton Environmental Projects (AEP) to make the entrance to the town more attractive.

“This is a real blow and an insult to all the volunteers and all involved from the school who have been working hard to enhance this area for many months.”

Coun Karen Aldred

But at around 11.30pm on Friday night, firefighters were called to the garden on the corner of Bolton Old Road and Bolton Road after the sculpture was deliberately set on fire.

Coun Karen Aldred, who has been working with AEP and nearby St Philip’s CE Primary School on the garden, said she was disgusted by the incident.

She said: “There will be many who are disappointed with a mindless act that someone has done to the willow structure that the children and staff at St Philips school chose.

“This is a real blow and an insult to all the volunteers and all involved from the school who have been working hard to enhance this area for many months.

“It really is disgusting what has been done. We will not be beaten. We have received many words of support and offers to raise funds for another sculpture and we will take up these offers.

“This area has been entered into North West in Bloom, to represent Atherton, and the sculpture was the centrepiece.

“It is too late to get another sculpture made now before the judging but we rescued the children’s wooden squirrel so we will get our heads together with the school and come up with something as a make do for the judging.

“I cannot express how soul destroying this is, but volunteers are determined to overcome this evil act. “

A crew from Atherton fire station spent around 20 minutes at the scene putting the fire out but said the sculpture was completely destroyed.

Crew manager Paul Gibbons said: “All that hard work by the community has gone up in flames and we have had to spend 20 minutes on a busy Friday night putting the fire out.

“The sculpture of a woman and a child collecting flowers has been completely destroyed by someone who deliberately set it alight.”

Coun Aldred has asked anyone who might be able to help them to call her on 01942 894262. The incident has been reported to police.

She said it appears two vehicles pulled up at the site and an unknown number of people got out before leaving again in the cars.

Enquiries are ongoing and anyone who saw anything is asked to call 101.