Senseless garden damage at Loanhead community centre

Gardener Ash Watt with Lynne Smith and Erin(6) and Juli Critchley with Imogen (5 mths) Isla (6) and Magnus (3) at the sensory garden at The Link in Loanhead.
Gardener Ash Watt with Lynne Smith and Erin(6) and Juli Critchley with Imogen (5 mths) Isla (6) and Magnus (3) at the sensory garden at The Link in Loanhead.

Vandals have damaged a sensory garden for children with additional support needs at the recently opened Link community centre in Loanhead.

At about 8.20pm on Saturday, April 28, two male youths caused damage to numerous items within the garden at the Mayburn Walk facility, formerly known as the Kabin.

The sensory garden is a newly built charity-funded facility completed in February, which provides an area for sensory engagement for children with additional support needs. The damage caused will have an impact on both the community centre and the children who use it.

Irene Hogg MBE, CEO of LASC Childcare Services, which runs the Link, has been left “really saddened” by the damage inflicted at the sensory garden.

She said: “It’s just so sad. The whole concept of what we are trying to deliver here is to support all ages.

“Then these young lads come in with total destruction. It’s just playing games to them. It’s so sad that they can’t see something that’s so beautiful and beneficial for their community.

“I’m really saddened. The community have embraced what we have done and I believe we are getting there.

“So for them to do this, it’s really sad and disappointing.

“This brand new, beautiful sensory garden was developed specifically for children with disabilities. It’s a joy to see the kids go in and engage with the garden. We want it open for the community to use it and they have been using it. But now we have had to close it.

“It was just too dangerous with all the damage lying around. Sharp edges with things sticking out. We can’t re-open the garden until it’s cleared up properly.”

Thanks to CCTV cameras installed at the Link, Irene has seen footage of the vandals carrying out their “malicious” vandalism.

“We can see them on the CCTV bashing the totem pole. We wanted to protect the garden due to the amount of money spent on it, so we put the CCTV up,” said Irene.

“It’s purely malicious damage that has been carried out.”

Irene though has been heartened by the local community’s reaction to this setback for the Link, and hopes with their help the garden will reopen this week. She said: “Some volunteers have agreed to come in and fix it for us. I’m delighted the community is coming together to help to help us get it going again.

“There were plants pulled out and the garden group here has agreed to plant them. We are looking for a donation to replace the plants.

“I’m hoping to get it open this week.”

Police are appealing for witnesses to the incident to come forward.

The males involved are described by police as 10-14 years old, slim build with short fair hair. One was seen wearing a black short-sleeved t-shirt, blue jeans and white trainers. The second male was wearing a black hooded tracksuit. Both were carrying plastic Nerf guns, or similar.

If you have any information regarding this incident, or have any CCTV that may cover the area, please contact the Midlothian Community Action Team at Loanhead Police Station on 101, quoting Incident Reference 2012 of 29/04/2018.

Alternatively, you can give information anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.