HARWOOD residents have been blighted by a gang of youths who are wreaking havoc in their area and now they say they have had enough. THOMAS GEORGE reports.

PEOPLE living close to Longsight Park have spoken out following another night of mayhem in which a group of up to 50 yobs set fire to bins on the park’s play area.

Firefighters and police officers have been called to the park on several occasions across the past few days, the first being on Saturday night when the group caused a ‘massive’ amount of damage after setting fire to a bin.

Earlier this week, police said the vandals were stealing wheelie bins from nearby homes before setting fire to them so they could inhale the fumes.

Officers warned that the stunt was ‘extremely dangerous’ as the fumes from the plastic were ‘highly toxic’.

But, the group has continued undeterred, and crews were called to the park four times across Tuesday and Wednesday.

Now, people living in the area say they have had enough of the anti-social behaviour, and have called for action to be taken.

As well as the the damage to the bins, residents have complained of drug dealing and aggressive off-road bikers in the park, while eggs have also been thrown at the windows of homes in Longsight Lane, which is next to the park.

Bradshaw councillor Jacqueline Radcliffe said: “It is a real problem and it is unfair on the rest of the community.

“This group think they are untouchable. They are staying out all night until 4am.”

She added that there was “a perfectly good youth club” around the corner from the park where the youths could go to if they were bored. Harwood Young People Centre’s is open three evenings a week ­— Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Cllr Radcliffe added: “A friend of mine saw this group throwing trolleys down steps outside Morrisons and they made a right mess. You do not expect stuff like this in Harwood.

“We had problems a few years ago culminating in the golf club being set on fire and we do not want it to get to that level again.

“I just wish the parents would take more notice of where their children are and what they’re up to.”

Following the latest spate of vandalism, police have advised Harwood residents to remove their bins from the kerbside after they had been emptied.

One man living in Longsight Lane, who asked not to be named, told The Bolton News that bins had been stolen from outside his house six times in the last two years.

On Saturday, police said as many as 100 youths had descended on the park and were upsetting for residents.

It is feared that the gatherings have been organised via social media, with youngsters travelling from other areas of Bolton to attend.

Bill Leece, who also lives in Longsight Lane, said: “There has been a fire engine on the park each of the past three nights as well as during the day. They have been setting bins on fire every weekend for about four weeks. This last week it has been every night.

“The park and Morrisons seem to have become a meeting place for people. We need something done immediately to stop it. It is such a nice park and it is ruining that play area for families. People defend them and say there is nothing for them to do but that is rubbish. There is more for kids to do these days than there ever was.”

Speaking at a meeting of Bolton Council on Wednesday night, Bradshaw councillor Stuart Haslam described the damage to the park as ‘inexcusable and reprehensible’.

He told councillors: “This is not just an issue over criminal damage and anti-social behaviour.

“It is a complex issue that involves under-age drinking and drugs, and requires a multi-agency operation led by the police, and one which we would hope, on our side, would lean towards a zero-tolerance approach.”

Speaking yesterday, Cllr Haslam added: “The residents around there have suffered for far too long.

“Some of these kids are the same kids who played on that play area a few years ago. The Friends of Longsight Park have done such a marvellous job improving the park, and we are trying to make it the jewel of Harwood that it should be.”

A council spokesman said that the burnt out bins had since been removed from the park, and a small area has been temporarily shut while repairs are made. The rest of the play area remains open for use.

She added: “We want to reassure residents that we are working with the police to tackle these issues. Our youth workers are regularly in the area, talking to young people and local residents. At Harwood young people’s centre, we hold regular clubs for 13 to 17-year-olds and for nine to 12-year-olds. We know that some of the problems are caused by young people who live both in and outside the area. We would ask for the minority to not spoil it for the majority and for young people to consider the neighbours and the community.Residents should report anti-social behaviour concerns to the police.”

Inspector Mike Russell from GMP’s Bolton District said: “We are aware that there have been some issues recently in Longsight Park in Harwood and the surrounding areas. We have increased patrols in the area and we’re working with our partners to tackle anti-social behaviour.”