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Town rallies round after community centre is target for vandals

Vic Oakman, chairman of Forest Community Centre with vice-chair Rich George

PEOPLE of Melksham have rallied around to support the Forest Community Centre after it was targeted by vandals.

The popular centre has said a huge thank you to local people who have raised money to fix the damage after vandals kicked down a door.

“We would like to say a massive thank you again for the huge support we have received the last couple of days from all the community,” the club said on its Facebook page.

“It is really overwhelming to know that we still have such fantastic local community support, we are now trying to get the centre back on its feet and trying to repair the damage, but this does come at a large cost and we would kindly ask you again for you support in funding and repair of the door so we can keep the building secure and up and running for everyone to enjoy and to prevent any serious damage happening to the property again.”

Last Tuesday evening, 28th November, Vic Oakman, chairman of the community centre had just left after preparing for ladies’ skittles that evening when he was alerted to a group of teenagers kicking through the community centre’s front door.

Vic Oakman told Melksham News, “ I heard banging at my own home and thought someone was knocking at the door or even kicking down a neighbour’s door around 6.15pm.

“At the time, my daughter-in-law, the bar manager at the community centre was round my house and ran outside to see three girls and one boy kicking down a fence. One of the girls then shouted ‘He’s just kicked down the door of the community centre too.’

“My daughter-in-law then went and saw the damage and came back and told me to call the police, I did and  they were at the scene within five minutes. They had kicked straight through the front door window, the CCTV shows clear images of them and shows they did not enter the property they just kicked the door, the glass luckily did not smash but the casings around the window are broken beyond repair.

“CCTV images were put on our Facebook page and also ‘The Sham Shout Outs’ Facebook page and within half an hour the power of social media had accumulated all the names of the vandals and  we have now passed them on to the police.”

Vic and other members of the community centre were instructed not to leave the building that evening until the security company had come out to make the building secure. The police recommended a company to come and board up the window to ensure there was no further unauthorised access. Work was carried out and the centre was charged £250 from their own pockets, with Rich George, vice-chairman of the centre offering to pay it on his credit card.

However, the work completed by the recommended company left members of the committee baffled at what their money had actually paid for.

Rich George said, “The job was simply a few mismatched pieces of wood put together with a few nails. We explained that we needed to open again the next day, bills don’t stop coming in and we need to generate income. The boards could have easily been ripped down in seconds. Myself and Craig Rumens, another committee member, had to redo the boards ourselves to make the centre secure.”

Due to the evening’s events, they then had to cancel the ladies’ skittles, a weekly occurring event, as the area was not safe. This resulted in them losing further money. They also had fewer numbers for the weekly bingo evening the following night.

Vic Oakman continued, “The next stages are all in the hands of the police. The boy has been identified as the same boy who has been causing vandalism across Melksham and surrounding areas with slashing tyres. We have the name but are not allowed to release it. We just hope that the police will prosecute.”

The members are now looking at permanent security provision including metal shuttering to deter future vandalism.

Vic Oakman, chairman of Forest Community Centre with vice-chair Rich George.

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