Meade Park fire: Frustration voiced at lack of progress in police investigation

Photo of fire-damaged play equipment.
Fire-damaged children’s play fort and slide in Meade Park, Stoke Gifford. Pictured on Monday 19th June 2023.

Councillors and residents have expressed frustration at the lack of progress being made in the police investigation into a suspected arson attack which destroyed children’s play equipment in Meade Park, Stoke Gifford.

A wooden play fort, which had been renewed at a cost of almost £30,000 less than two years ago was destroyed in the fire on the evening of Saturday 17th June 2023.

While photos of the blaze were widely shared on social media, along with general accusations of “youths” being involved, no one who actually saw the fire start has made contact with the police.

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Information shared at a meeting of Stoke Gifford Parish Council’s Finance Committee on 11th July, says a fire was started on the artificial grass beneath the play fort using “a flammable substance and a cardboard material” – leading to the safety surface and timber structure being destroyed.

According to neighbourhood sergeant Craig Doyle, speaking a meeting of the local Community Engagement Forum (CEF) on 28th June, two PCSOs were dispatched to the incident and once there they “engaged with groups of youths etc. to seek witnesses”. However he added:

“At this time we haven’t been able to seek anyone actually seeing the fire start despite a media appeal [issued on 21st June]. We do have some leads which we are investigating and have increased our patrols in Little Stoke Playing Fields and Meade Park. Resources from other areas and also Special Constabulary have been brought in to help with this.”

Photo of play equipment on fire.
Children’s play fort and slide in Meade Park, Stoke Gifford, ablaze on Saturday 17th June 2023. Image credit: From a video by Cole Smart.

Informed that residents had been asking what progress had been made during the first 11 days of investigations and were “worried that the same thing could happen to their homes”, Sgt Doyle replied:

“I totally sympathise and understand the anger and concern felt. We are still very much reliant on people coming forward with information. We spoke with people at the time and [have] spoken with witnesses but [there is] only circumstantial information [and there are] no actual eye witnesses who saw the fire start.”

“We are doing what we can which includes media appeals and we still have people we need to speak with. We want to prevent anything like this ever happening again. PCSOs filmed ASB behaviour yesterday [27th June] and are now in the process of identifying the youths but [I’m] not saying that they are linked to the fire.”


Later in the CEF meeting, a resident asked:

“You have mentioned that you haven’t received any firm evidence regarding the recent fire. People were there ready to take pictures of fire services in attendance and therefore find it hard to believe that no one has any evidence of the fire actually starting. Are people afraid to come forward?”

To which Sgt Doyle replied:

“I don’t think people are afraid to come forward as a lot of people approached us at the time. Please report every incident directly to the police and not just post on social media.”

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In an additional response included in the draft minutes of the CEF meting, published on 25th July, Sgt Doyle added:

“I have been in contact with the investigating officer and reviewed the log of actions on the crime report. The officer is currently contacting potential witnesses for any additional information but at present no suspects have been identified. Unfortunately, it would not appear that we have had any new lines of enquiry following the media appeal.”

When the Journal checked with the police media office on 1st August, we were told that there had been no further developments in the investigation beyond those previously reported by Sgt Doyle.

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CCTV camera options

Although there appears to be a CCTV camera in the park, which some residents have suggested might have recorded footage that could be useful for the police investigation, this has now been revealed to be a non-functional “dummy”. The decoy unit was installed by the parish council in 2020 following a spate of vandalism in the park in an effort to “prevent further issues going forward”.

Following the CEF meeting the police force’s CCTV officer was asked to assess the options for installing ‘temporary deployable’ CCTV in Meade Park. In his response included in the minutes of the CEF meeting, the officer says the existing 8m high lighting columns in the park are not high enough to accommodate cameras – instead, dedicated 10m columns would need to be installed, fitted with anti-climb collars.

The CCTV officer adds:

“Lighting – Although the main footpaths are lit by street lights the play equipment is not. Deployable CCTV would struggle to effectively monitor these key areas with minimal/zero lighting.”

“Environment – Due to the CCTV looking at an open children’s play area this could be deemed as controversial and open to public challenge.”

The officer’s conclusion is that ‘temporary deployable’ CCTV cameras “are not a viable option in this situation”.

Notwithstanding the above, July’s meeting of Stoke Gifford Parish Council’s Finance Committee was told that the installation of a permanent CCTV system at Meade Park “is an option and would be a circa £3,000 investment”.

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Article from the November 2021 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine.

Play equipment replacement

Stoke Gifford Parish Council has begun considering options for replacing the play fort and to this end a presentation by a representative of Pentagon Play (installers of the now destroyed fort) was given at July’s Finance Committee meeting.

Despite Cllr Dave Addision, chair of council, previously saying, “We don’t want it to be out of action for the entirety of the summer holidays,” it is now clear that this aspiration will not be achieved.

To gauge opinions on possible options for replacing the play fort, the parish council has launched a public consultation which presents the following choices:

  • Replace with a similar wooden structure
  • Replace the tower with a metal structure (that will be smaller due to pricing)
  • Replace with a basic platform/steps to support the slide plus installation of an additional zip wire
  • Other option (respondent to describe details)

The consultation page adds that the budget for the work is “in the region of £30,000 (to include safety surface)”.

The consultation runs until 8th September and the results will be considered at the next meeting of Full Council, scheduled for 12th September.

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Investigation closed

UPDATE added 6th October 2023.

The Journal has learned that the police have closed the investigation into the Meade Park arson attack of Saturday 17th June 2023. The development was disclosed in a police response to a wide-ranging list of concerns relating to ASB and crime issues said to be affecting Stoke Gifford.

“The fire in Meade Park has been investigated by the local Response Team. Unfortunately, despite a media appeal and efforts made to identify any witnesses, no evidence has been available to identify any suspect in relation to the offence. Due to a lack of any evidence, the investigation has been closed.”


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