Wisbech Rugby Club has been burned by vandals who have set bonfires on their pitches leaving them £1,000s out of pocket
A Fenland rugby club is counting the cost after vandalism at the weekend left them thousands of pounds out of pocket and with serious damage to one of their pitches.
Wisbech Rugby Club chairman Leonard Veenendaal is questioning the purpose of the district's CCTV cameras after dozens of attacks at the club's ground in Harecroft Road in recent months and not one of them apparently captured on camera.
The weekend's first incident happened on Friday night and saw a bonfire set on a pitch used by the junior team, leaving it in need of serious repair and unplayable.
On Saturday night the fire starters returned with another bonfire and also a barbecue close to the site of the initial fire, and then again on Sunday night there was another bonfire.
Mr Veenendaal said: "We have not long finished work on the pitch to make the playing surface playable for our junior team, now it needs to be repaired and it is going to cost.
"This is not the first time. We have had constant problems with vandalism. There are two CCTV cameras, one at either end of the site, but every time there is an incident I'm told it won't have been caught on camera because they were pointing the wrong way - every time?
"What are the odds of that, how long does it take for the camera to rotate, it might not be pointing the right way at the start of a fire, but surely a massive bonfire is going to catch the eye of whoever is monitoring.
"We have vagrant drinkers, rough sleepers, drug dealing and taking as well as the bonfires and fly tipping. The last lot of fly tipping was so bad we had to hire a lorry with a grab to clear it and that was expensive.
"The drug taking means we constantly have to check the pitches for needles and we are forever finding them strewn about. All this within sight of two CCTV cameras operated by Fenland District Council and paid for by tax payers.
"This area is flagged as a hot spot yet when I was keeping an eye out until 11pm on Saturday there was not one police patrol go past and the damage continued after I left. I cut a weekend away short because of what has happened and I'm furious that no-one seems to be taking it seriously."
Wisbech Acorns Football Club were so fed-up with the mess they were forced to clear from their pitches at Harecroft each time before playing they handed their notice into the site's owners, the National Trust, and moved in January 2018.
Mr Veenendaal said: "Very much as the Acorns found out, I too am of the strong opinion as due to the litter and vandalism those pitches are not financially or practically viable."
He said the club had already fenced off some of the pitches and the problems had greatly reduced, now he said they would have to consider fencing the rest.
"Last month we decided to invest in our junior teams, but that is a decision we may have to rethink. Those pitches that are unfenced are not viable until such time as they are not accessible by the public. No doubt there will be an outcry, but while people may believe the area is public land, it is in fact not.
"We pay to rent it from the National Trust, who has been reluctant to have it all fenced off, and Fenland District Council also wants to see it kept open, but we can't afford to do that while we are facing constant vandalism and the authorities are not prepared too help.
"What is the point of having CCTV if the cameras are not properly monitored and they do not record incidents. The cameras at Harecroft Road are visible but the vandals know nothing will happen, as nothing happened the first time, or the next or the next.
"Cars were damaged in a neighbouring business' car park the other week and they asked about CCTV images and were told there were none. When the travellers invaded our pitchesthey cut through bollards with chainsaws, again there were no images.
"Fly-tippers know they can get away with it there, because no-one has ever been caught. It is so frustrating and we are fed-up with picking up the mess and paying out for repairs."
Cambridgeshire Police confirmed a crime has been raised and they are “looking into it” but could make no further comment.
A Fenland Council spokesman said: ““The primary aim of the two CCTV cameras in Harecroft Road is to assist public safety and to deter and detect crime in the council’s Chapel Road car park. They are not therefore intended to be able to monitor the playing field, which is privately owned, and would not have the visibility or reach to cover the field in any case. Additional cameras would be needed to do this effectively. However, we will review these two cameras in light of these incidents to see if there is any information that could be passed on to police as evidence.”