Arson attack after fears of 'escalating' anti-social behaviour raised

February 05 2019
Arson attack after fears of 'escalating' anti-social behaviour raised

ANOTHER arson attack has been carried out in Thornbury, days after councillors warned of “escalating” anti-social behaviour in the town.

The latest incident saw a portable toilet set on fire in Church Road on Sunday evening.

Two fire crews from the town dealt with the blaze near the junction with Gloucester Road and Castle Coombe, which was discovered shortly after 6pm.

An Avon Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson confirmed that the fire is believed to have been started deliberately.

It is the latest in a series of arson attacks in recent months and comes shortly after one councillor claimed anti-social behaviour was out of control.

Thornbury South & Alveston councillor Maggie Tyrrell said problems have been “nipped in the bud” before but in the past two years had escalated.

Problems were aired at a recent meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s health scrutiny commission, where members were told there was now 24/7 security at the Thornbury Hospital site after an incident in October when a firework was let off inside, breaking 15 panes of glass and causing smoke damage.

Care providers Sirona cited vandalism and intimidation of staff when it left the site, most of which is not currently in use, before Christmas.

The hospital is owned by the North Bristol Trust (NBT).

Tricia Down, its head of capital planning, told the commission: “We’ve been exposed to a large amount of violence and aggression.”

A trust spokesperson added: “Because the properties are now largely empty, the site is also suffering from increasing vandalism and antisocial behaviour and there are serious concerns about the safety of patients and staff.”

Midwife and outpatient services still run out of Thornbury Hospital but Ms Down said that is being reviewed.

Councillor Tyrrell said: “I think it’s appalling what’s happening to Thornbury Hospital. Local councillors have been trying to work with local police to get more done to protect the site.

I think we’ve been let down. Thornbury Town Council has asked for a meeting with the police and crime commissioner.”

Afterwards Cllr Tyrrell said further incidents in the town included youths riding motorbikes across playing fields and gatherings in an underpass, where drugs were being used.

She said: Antisocial behaviour is escalating.

So many people in the town are worried about it. They feel the community is changing. It was always considered a really safe place.

Some people feel it’s becoming unsafe.

The police made arrests after one of the fires (at Castle School) but it hasn’t really stopped the problem.

The police know the groups but don’t seem to have to the capability to do anything about it. We don’t know why that is.

This time we don’t get the sense it’s being controlled.”

An Avon and Somerset Constabulary spokesman said patrols in the grounds of Thornbury Hospital had been increased “in direct response” to concerns over antisocial behaviour and a crime reduction advisor had worked with NBT to improve security.

A number of local youths were identified as being associated with some of the antisocial behaviour reported and were issued with acceptable behaviour contracts,” the spokesman added.

Officers continue to conduct regular mobile patrols in this area as well as on foot and pedal cycles. We would urge anyone who witnesses antisocial behaviour at the site to report it to us.”

The spokesman said a total of ten people had been arrested over the fires at Castle School, adding that antisocial behaviour reports across South Gloucestershire had gone down by 10.8 per cent over the past year.

He said: “The police remain absolutely committed to tackling antisocial behaviour and strengthening and improving all communities across South Gloucestershire.”

Anyone with information about antisocial behaviour can report it to the police on 101.

Picture shows firefighters from Thornbury, who tackled the latest arson attack, during a training exercise. Picture: Thornbury Fire Station