Gardeners despair as firebug targets crime-hit allotments

Washdyke Lane allotment fire
Washdyke Lane allotment fire

AN ARSON attack is the latest in a long line of trouble that has cost gardeners tens of thousands of pounds at a well-established allotment site in Hucknall.

The fire raged at the allotments off Washdyke Lane at about 9 pm on Friday September 30.

It took more than an hour and 45 minutes to bring the flames under control as four sheds went up in smoke.

Firefighters used a thermal-imaging camera to make sure there was no-one inside any of the sheds.

Now an investigation by the Dispatch has uncovered that the allotments have been targeted in what appears to be an organised spate of crime.

Sheds have regularly been broken into. It is claimed that 15 were attacked in one night earlier this year.

Items stolen have ranged from a flamegun, which is used to burn large areas of grass, to generators, rotavators and handtools.

Mick Walters, who is on the committee that represents allotment-holders, said: “We are all fed-up. But the problem is no-one seems to be bothered until it happens to them.

“We need to get the allotment-holders, the council and the police together and talk about how we are going to tackle this.

“Part of the problem is that people do not report everything that happens. Each individual report stays on file and helps the police build up a picture.”

It is claimed that on one occasion, a burglar drove up to the site, which is owned by Ashfield District Council, with a flatbed truck and loaded up before making off with thousands of pounds worth of equipment.

Gardener Jim Spray said: “We have had lots of problems in the past but this year has been worse than ever.

“It is clear that these burglaries are organised. They even took the tea, sugar and coffee when they broke into one of the sheds.

“It is so sad that it is happening. Some of the allotment-holders spend their lives up here and put an incredible amount of effort into maintaining their plots.

“They are dispirited that someone can come up here and do this.”

Hucknall’s police chief, Insp Nick Butler, explained that there had been a recent increase in shed break-ins at allotments across the county. But he urged allotment-holders to report any crime.

A force-wide initiative is to be launched to tackle the problem, coupled with a commitment to visit the victims of crime in all cases that are reported.

Insp Butler added that undercover and high-visibility patrols will be stepped up. Shed alarms have also been handed out, and there is even the possibility of using cameras to cover entrances to allotments.

An investigation has been launched into the arson. Anyone with information should ring the police on 0300 3009999 or call the free and confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555111.