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Residents call for park patrols after woman's death
RESIDENTS living near a park where a young woman died after a vicious attack are calling for the introduction of park rangers.
But Rossendale council's leader has dismissed the idea saying that there are insufficient funds for the proposal and that stricter parental control is needed.
Sophie Lancaster, 20, a former Haslingden High student, died in Hope Hospital, Salford on Friday morning having never regained consciousness after a horrific attack in Stubbylee Park in Bacup in the early hours of Saturday August 11.
She was with her boyfriend Robert Maltby, 21, when they were attacked, possibly as they were wearing goth-style clothing.
Residents have been shocked by Sophie's death and have questioned whether more could be done to improve park safety.
Brian Varley, who is from Rawtenstall and a member of the park's bowling club, said that the park has become a haven for drunken, violent yobs.
He said: "It is devastating that an attack like this could happen in our area and my heart goes out to her family.
"As a community we need to look at what can be done to prevent anything like this from happening again.
"If we had park rangers then maybe then this tragedy might not have happened.
"For the last few months there has been beer cans and empty bottles thrown all over the bowling green on a Sunday.
"They vandalised the club house a few months ago and since then we have wanted Park Rangers to patrol the area like they have in Burnley.
"We have also asked for the park to be an alcohol control zone to help combat the problem but nothing has been done."
Leader of the council Duncan Ruddick said: "It just would not be financially feasible to employ park rangers. It would cost us £150,000 to pay for rangers to patrol 24 hours a day for the year and that is just for one park, where would we get the money from?
"I think the real issue is why these teenagers were allowed to be out in the early hours of the morning unsupervised and drinking alcohol."
But leader of the opposition councillor Alyson Barnes said that initiatives to increase park safety should not be dismissed.
She said: "The attack was absolutely dreadful and residents will now need to feel reassured for their families' safety.
"Residents are urged to voice their opinions about what they feel needs to be done and we will look into how feasible the options are.
"Park Rangers could be an option but community youth schemes could also be an option to address the underlying social issues."
Leader of Lancashire County Council, Hazel Harding, who is also a Rossendale County Councillor said: "In the light of what has happened some action needs to be taken.
"It would be very difficult to patrol the park all the time but I will be talking with Trading Standards to find out where these youngsters are getting the alcohol from because they must be getting it from somewhere.
"I am also hoping to talk to youth services to find out why the youngsters are driven to this behaviour."
Five youths aged between 15 and 17 have been charged with wounding with intent. They will appear before Burnley youth court in September.