Vandals cause costly damage at city's castle

Vandals have damaged and defaced one of the city's key historic sites.

Friday, 30th September 2016, 1:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 1:43 pm
Some of the residents who have been calling for action at Sandal Castle after it was vandalised.

Yobs sprayed graffiti over the remains of the medieval walls of Sandal Castle last week. And days later, a car was recklessly driven on to its slopes, damaging the fragile hillside.

Richard Taylor, who sits on the committee of the Friends of Sandal Castle group, said the community was outraged by the attacks.

He said: “A post on the Sandal Community Association Facebook page, under the simple slogan ‘We Care about Our Castle’ has attracted more than 12,000 views, a measure of the anger that is felt about what’s happening at the site.”

The damage comes months after the site’s visitor centre was closed down, in a cost-cutting move by Wakefield Council. Bridges and walkways at the heritage spot were also closed due to safety concerns in March. They remain shut as the council tries to secure funds to carry out repairs.

Some residents have been calling for the authority to take action to protect the castle.

Mr Taylor said: “People are furious with the mindless vandals who have been damaging what is a key part of Wakefield’s heritage but their ire is also directed at Wakefield Council for not acting swiftly to repair or replace the bridges and walkways which are said to be unsafe. Their closure, and that of the castle information centre, add to the air of dereliction that inevitably encourages vandalism.”

Keith Souter, vice chairman of the group, added: “The Friends group was formed to support the council and try to get the historic monument and the whole site used locally, which we have been very successful in doing.”

He continued: “It is a shame if this important site starts to deteriorate and is being defaced, which is sadly what seems to be happening.”

The council has condemned the “mindless destruction” of the castle and announced new measures to help protect it.

Coun Les Shaw, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: “Sandal Castle is part of our heritage and I want to reinforce our commitment to do everything we can to respect and protect it, but we need people’s help too.

“This latest spate of vandalism is reprehensible and will have a significant impact on our finances to rectify.

“We are working with Historic England to identify the specialist contractors needed to deal with this and we will have to find the funds to pay for it. Unfortunately, it won’t be quick, easy or cheap but we will find a way to do it.”

The council said it would install temporary CCTV at the site, increase litter patrols, boost night time security and look to install barriers to prevent vehicle access. It said it is also working with West Yorkshire Police to prevent future anti-social behaviour.

Coun Shaw said the council was committed to finding a new tenant for the visitor centre and was exploring funding options to carry out the £175,000 bridge and walkway repairs. The council said representatives would attend the next Friends meeting to discuss how they could work closer to benefit the castle.