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Vandalism shuts New Milton muga again just weeks after £15,000 repairs to previous damage




MORE vandalism has forced a popular New Milton sports facility to close again just over a month after reopening following thousands of pounds of repairs to previous damage.

Purpose-built handrails were ripped away from boundaries separating the courts in the multi-use-games area (muga) by the recreation ground, off Whitefield Road, leaving jagged edges.

Town council staff shut the site to users last Thursday for safety reasons while repairs are awaited.

The muga is closed until further notice
The muga is closed until further notice

A number of locks were also broken when the muga was targeted twice since last Wednesday but these have since been replaced; and unsuccessful attempts were made to cut through chain-link fencing.

The latest attacks came after the facility closed for over two months from early June following extensive damage to equipment, fences and bins.

Repair work cost a total of about £15,500, including 135 hours of labour.

A handrail was also damaged within days of the facility reopening, but council workers were able to make it safe with temporary repairs on that occasion.

Handrails have been ripped off (photo: Hampshire police)
Handrails have been ripped off (photo: Hampshire police)

Just over a week before the latest incidents, town mayor Cllr Keith Craze had dubbed New Milton and Barton "the Wild West" during a New Forest District Council meeting.

As reported in the A&T, he challenged local police commander Ch. Insp. Helen Andrews over the force’s response to continued vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Frustrated by last week's damage, estates and facilities manager Mark Jeffries told the A&T it was expected to cost another £1,000 to put right.

“Three or four of these handrails have been ripped off, which leaves sharp, jagged edges,” he explained.

“Obviously, from our perspective, it’s disappointing to have to close the muga again; and those who use it properly are going to suffer again.

“We’re hoping to source the repairs, but we’ve not been given a clear delivery date for replacements, so the muga will remain closed until further notice.”

Sharp edges left by the damage (photo: Hampshire police)
Sharp edges left by the damage (photo: Hampshire police)

The A&T recently reported how repeated vandalism at the muga prompted the town council’s amenities committee to call for increased CCTV coverage to deter offenders.

This is among possible measures set to be raised in a meeting with the New Forest Community Safety Partnership, including police and NFDC representatives, on 28th October.

“We will look at solutions for the best way forward so we can keep the facility open for the vast majority of people who use it properly,” Mr Jeffries continued.

“It is disappointing – it’s just the few that want to spoil it for the majority.”

Slamming those responsible for the “wanton vandalism” on Facebook, local PCSO Alan McCaffery expressed his full support for the council’s decision to close the muga again. He also called for those who can help catch the offenders to come forward.

“Absolutely appalling behaviour by a handful of miscreants, whom I am sure were witnessed by others doing this,” Mr McCaffery wrote.

Anyone with information should contact Hampshire police on 101, quoting crime reference number 44210387787, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.



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