RESIDENTS told how they ‘fear for their lives’ after suffering years of torment from gangs of youths lighting bonfires on a children’s play park.

They said the site in Kendal Street, Blackburn had become a no-go zone for families and described it as a ‘ghost park’ after being subjected to more than five years of neglect, fly-tipping and deliberate fires.

The latest fire was set on Thursday evening which left three square metres of tarmac damage, in addition to earlier fence and climbing frame damage.

Blackburn with Darwen Council blamed budget cuts for the lack of maintenance.

Noor Mohammad, chairman of the nearby Masjid-E-Raza mosque, who lives next to the park, said: “Everyone around here is scared of coming out at night because of these kids.

“It seems to be happening every other night.

“Along with the bonfire damage to the surface, the playing facilities are in disrepair, the fences are broken and people fly-tip here every day.

“It’s not looked after at all and something needs to be done as soon as possible.”

Imran Ali, who has lived close to the park all his life, said: “If the council do not want to do anything about this park then they should hand it over to the community and let us make the most of the space.

“We could turn some of it into extra parking, which we really need, and make sure the rest of it is a nice area for kids to play.

“People fear for their lives every night because of these youths and it’s getting worse every week.

“It’s turning into a ghost park and the community are afraid of speaking out at the youths because they just throw fireworks and burning rubbish into people’s back gardens.”

Mother-of-one Anisha Patel, who lives in Kendal Street, said: “It’s a place that no parent would want their kids playing because it’s so dangerous.

“The number of fires seem to have increased since bonfire night and they are almost happening on a daily basis.

“If the council came to clear up the rubbish and repair the park then maybe that would put these youths off.”

Blackburn’s lead member for environment, Coun Shaukat Hussain said: “I am saddened to hear that reckless arsonists started a fire near a play area. Luckily, however no-one was hurt.

“I can assure concerned residents that we are working to improve and maintain the area but budget cuts and this fire only make this task more difficult.

“I will oversee our investigation into this fire and hopefully working in partnership with the police, fire service and local residents we will bring the culprits to justice.”