A COMMUNITY is outraged after arsonists devastated a much-used allotment shop, leaving it beyond repair.

The vandals targeted the allotment shop, at the Gaynes Park Allotments, in Manners Way, Southend, some time on the night of Sunday, March 12.

Volunteer site manager, Ray How said: “I left at 4pm on Sunday and then came back yesterday morning to find it completely destroyed.

“It looks like they broke into one of sheds then took a heavy-duty sledgehammer and smashed a hole big enough to walk through in the side of the hub.”

It is situated on council land but operated and funded by the plot holders and volunteers, and is used as a small shop where allotment users could buy seeds, plants and other equipment.

It also served as the social space where people could meet up and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee.

Mr How added: “They have taken some fertiliser and other supplies and then set it alight. Everything is completely destroyed. The council have inspected the building and said due to the damage, it is beyond repair and will have to be knocked down.

“Because we’re a community allotment, we’ve got a variety of people using the space. Now they have nowhere to meet up and socialise. The hub was our only means of income so it also means we have nowhere to sell the supplies or refreshments from.

“The reaction from the community has ranged from absolutely sickened to outraged. It is just so unnecessary. It’s there as a space to get together and foster new friendships. We built this up from nothing and now we’re going to have to start again from scratch.”

The fire eventually burnt itself out and the fire service did not attend.

Mr How said: “I think the thing that has angered me most is the complete disinterest of the police operator on the end of the phone. They have said because its a one-off incident and that forensics will not be able to get prints from the fire, they won’t even come down and investigate. I’m a retired police officer and I think we should have had someone down here.”

A police spokesman said: “The incident is being treated as arson. Anyone with information is asked to call Southend police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”