A vandalism incident at a Horticulture Unit for adults with learning disabilities has caused around £2,500 of damage to property and left those involved with the project ‘very distressed’.
Police are appealing for witnesses after criminal damage was caused to the polytunnel at Bannvale Horticultural Centre, Moyallen Road, Gilford sometime between 1pm on Sunday, July 3, and 9am on Monday, July 4.
It’s not the first time vandalism has taken place at the unit, with incidents of a similar nature having occurred in the past.
The Assistant Director for Disability Services at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Miceal Crilly, said: “The Horticulture Unit at Bannvale offers a much-valued day opportunity for people with disabilities from the area, giving them the chance to develop their gardening skills and enjoy the social interaction of working together.
“Our service users and staff at Bannvale take great pride in their work and we know that they are really appreciated by the local community who come to buy their goods.
“Everyone at Bannvale has been very distressed by this incident and that we will have to use public money to repair this unnecessary damage.”
Local MLA Carla Lockhart visited the premises following the attack and said: “You really wonder what goes through the head of someone to think that this is either acceptable behaviour or some kind of joke. It is simply wanton vandalism.
“I know as a member of the Stormont education committee the challenges that face special needs education and how valuable this type of resource is.”
She added: “I have been speaking to the PSNI in relation to this matter and will continue to support special needs learning and education.
“I have been vocal in my support both on committee and via social media and will continue to challenge and search for new ways to develop the landscape further.”
Fellow MLA Sydney Anderson also condemned those responsible for the ‘despicable’ act of vandalism.
“This horticultural unit, which includes a polytunnel for growing plants and vegetables, is operated by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.
“The facility is used by individuals with learning difficulties and I am particularly angered because much distress has been caused by this attack.
“This type of criminal activity is a blight on our society and we must do all we can as a community to assist the PSNI in their efforts to combat it.”
Meanwhile police are calling on members of the public who witness any anti-social behaviour in the area to report it.
Constable Slevin said: “We are appealing for anyone who might have information which may assist the investigation to contact police at Armagh Police Station on 101 quoting CC2016070400254.
“Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details they can contact Crimestoppers and speak anonymously on 0800 555 111.”