VANDALS have torched a brand new play area in Stanford-le-Hope.

The large multi-play unit at Hardie Close, installed just three months ago, was set alight sometime before 8pm on Monday and is now a scorched wreck.

Councillor Sue Macpherson, Thurrock Council’s cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “I cannot believe these ignorant, mindless spoilers.

“Thurrock Council worked hard to get the money to provide state-of-the-art, modern equipment so young people would have somewhere safe and fun to play.

“One person, or a small group of people, have ruined years of future fun for young residents — probably their own neighbours or even siblings, it’s beyond belief.”

The equipment was installed as part of the government’s million-pound Playbuilder Programme and cost £45,000.

This is the second time that expensive equipment at the park has been destroyed by fire.

In 2006 a gang of yobs torched the new skatepark, prompting residents and the community forum to call for CCTV and regular patrols in the park to avoid a repeat incident.

Councillor Macpherson has appealed for witnesses to the latest incident to come forward.

She added: “This happened in the early evening. Somebody must have seen something and I appeal to them to let the police know what they saw. We can’t let this happen unchallenged.”