Damage to stallholders’ tents at an annual fair in Bognor has been described as ‘mindless’ by the organiser.
Police have confirmed reports several tents set up for the Hotham Park Country Fair, which is run by Hotham Park Heritage Trust, were ‘slashed’.
Event organiser Debbie Northcott said the ‘very successful’ event was marred by around 25 gazebos being slashed or unzipped, with ‘quite a few thefts’.
“It was sheer vandalism by I don’t know who,” she said.
“It’s difficult because we don’t have CCTV. They must have seen during the day what they wanted and come back throughout the night.
“Unfortunately, some of these stallholders – it’s there livelihood.
“We are very sorry it happened. We had security,” she added.
Ms Northcott said there were two security officers moving around the park between 7pm to 7am and that the police were called but did not attend.
She also said the fire brigade had to be called on Sunday afteroon after a fire in the park’s Discovery Garden.
Stallholder Chris Warden said she and others who had rented gazebos felt more security should have been in place.
“Leaving our stock in our own gazebos, we take that risk, that’s fine,” she said.
“What we’ve got a hump about is they’re supposed to be guarding it and two people for the whole park is not sufficient to protect our goods.”
She said there was no apparent method in which stalls were targetted and some items taken were later discovered dumped in bushes or of little monetary value, such as a book of face-paint designs collected over 20 years.
The chairman of Hotham Park Heritage Trust Rosemary Warren said she was ‘saddened but not defeated’ by the event.
“This was our 17th event in our 20th year and never in that time have we had such criminal damage carried out in such a wanton manner.
“Many of our stallholders return each year and very fortunately they were able to rise above this deliberate attempt to scupper the event.
“It is a very sad indictement of our times that everyone involved had to take this on the chin with no support from the police and we shall be taking that further.”
A police spokesperson said: “At 2.30am on Sunday (August 5) police received a report that seven tents set up for a country fair in Hotham Park, Upper Bognor Road, Bognor, had been slashed with a sharp instrument.
“It is understood that subsequently more tents were found to have been slashed around the same time, but details are awaited from the organisers.”
An Arun District Council spokesperson said: “Arun District Council’s community safety team work closely with the local police to tackle and reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour in the local community.
“We want to reassure local residents and visitors to the area that Arun remains a safe place to live, work and visit.”