Published: 11:50, 19 October 2021
| Updated: 14:07, 19 October 2021
Devastated residents have hit out after a beloved community bench was set on fire.
The seat, in Park Mall, Ashford, was set alight in the early hours of Sunday following reported break-ins at shops in the centre.
The bench was set up and run by Made in Ashford, a shop that hosts a variety of arts and crafts businesses.
A spokeswoman for the shop said she had been alerted to the fire by police the following morning.
She said: "Our beautiful community created and seasonally changing bench (currently adorned by a beautiful hand knitted/crocheted rainbow) has been set on fire and burnt.
"This bench lives in a locked shopping centre, this incident happened at 3am after a few local shops were broken into.
"All that is left was the burnt wood of the frame however we can't repair it as some parts have burnt through.
"I hope they learn to cherish the things we have here one day."
"I would also like to add I put so much flame repelling spray on it, it also contained non flammable components, so it must have had something put on it to cause it to ignite and melt.
"Despite this being a really silly thing to do I hope this is the only time this little group do something like this and learn from their mistakes.
"I also hope they put back into their community and learn to cherish the things we have here one day. Maybe get involved to help us make another one and volunteer with us.
"Many of our art installations and community projects have come up against vandalism lately but we will persevere. Ashford deserves nice things and our community is the best at coming together!"
The news spread over social media, with people expressing their disgust at the vandalism.
One resident said: "This is truly sad, and shocking. The bench was so lovely and brightened up Park Mall no end.
"I hope the culprits are ashamed of themselves".
An Ashford Borough Council spokesperson said: "We are shocked and disappointed at the recent act of vandalism that took place at Park Mall over the weekend.
"As this is an active police enquiry, if anyone has any relevant information they should contact Kent Police".
Police have been contacted for comment.