The Yard: Nick Knowles tells of heartbreak as disabled children’s play area in Edinburgh torched by vandals

A play area for disabled children in Edinburgh, built by a DIY SoS charity special, has suffered £40,000 worth of damage after the grounds were doused in petrol and set alight by a “mindless” vandal.

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Police were alerted to the blaze at The Yard in Eyre Place Lane, Edinburgh at around 10.05am on Tuesday morning after a member of staff spotted an individual covering the grounds in petrol.

According to the member of staff who raised the alarm, the individual set the grounds on fire at around 8am and then proceeded to run around smashing glass windows.

The Yard charity in Edinburgh had its wooden boardwalk destroyed by vandals

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While nobody was injured by the fire, a large part of the charity’s grounds have been destroyed.

The wooden boardwalk, which offers safe play for thousands of disabled children, has been badly fire-damaged as has the surrounding grounds, outdoor electrics and the charity’s solar dome.

TV presenter Nick Knowles who led the team which created the play area for a Children in Need special in 2012, said he was “heartbroken” over the damage.

CEO of the play centre Celine Sinclair said it was a “mindless attack” and said it was “unbelievable” to think someone would do this to a charity caring for some of the city’s most vulnerable children.

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Nick Knowles and the DIY SOS team

“But we must be grateful,” sad said. “If the attack had taken place a few hours later there would have been children in the playground.”

What kind of human being does something like that

Knowles spoke over the weekend after being alerted to the damage, and urged donations to restore the play area.

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He said: "It's heartbreaking for those families.”The Yard's a haven for them, and a place where the parents can get advice and the kids can play safely.

"I spoke to Celine last week about their anniversary and then she messaged to say they had damage done. It must be someone deeply disturbed. To do something like that is heart-wrenching.

"What kind of human being does something like that to a place for children with disabilities. We built a geodesic dome and it's a fantastic outdoor space and a sensory experience.

"It's beautiful. We rearranged the walkway with the boardwalk. I've been back a few times for charity fundraising balls.

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"They're [The Yard] a real success story. They're really amazing people. To have it happen on their anniversary and to this particular group of people is really sad.

"When we came up in 2012 we had such a great turnout from the local community. Many didn't know about it.

"Hopefully people rally round and I'm sure the people of Scotland will help. It's a jewel of a place.

"We've done £20million worth of builds and The Yard remains one of my favourites. What they do there is extraordinary."

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We’ll come out the other side stronger

Like many charities across Scotland The Yard has faced increased financial burden since government guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to most regular fundraising events.

The Yard says the fire has sent “yet another challenge our way” but is determined to keep on providing services for some of Edinburgh’s most vulnerable children.

Police have confirmed that enquiries are still ongoing.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received report of wilful fire raising and vandalism at a premises on Eyre Place Lane in Edinburgh around 10.05am on Tuesday, 7 December, 2021. Enquiries are ongoing.”

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