Vandals Stop Disabled Anglers Fishing

An act of vandalism has completely destroyed a fishing platform designed especially for disabled anglers – less than six months after it was put in place.

The wooden structure was burnt to the ground, with nearby fencing being used to feed the blaze. The platform – created to help disabled, elderly and young anglers take part in fishing by allowing them to get closer to the water more safely – was part of the £30,000 Shepherd Meadows Fishery Enhancement project in the Blackwater Valley, on the border between Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire.

A joint venture by the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, Bracknell Forest Borough Council, British Disabled Angling Association, the Environment Agency and Hartley Wintney Angling Club, the project also included resurfacing pathways and modifying a gate to improve access for wheelchair users.

George Gerring, a fisheries officer for the Environment Agency, has been actively involved with the regeneration of the area.

He said: “It is a real shame that this has happened, as this mindless act has deprived local anglers of a well-used resource. We are currently in talks with the local council to see whether we can secure funds to rebuild the platform.”

Paul Stokes from Hartley Wintney Angling Club, who frequently used the platform along with other anglers from the club, said: “I just don’t understand why people would do something like this. I come down here all the time and it’s a lovely spot but now it feels as though it’s been spoilt. I really hope that the council manage to find the money to sort out a new platform.”

Bracknell Forest Cllr Iain McCracken said: “I am appalled that someone has decided to create a bonfire from a platform which allowed disabled, elderly and young people to fish at Shepherd Meadows.

“We will certainly be discussing with our partners in this venture ways to replace the platform to allow everyone to enjoy what should be a peaceful and enjoyable part of the borough which is accessible to the whole community.”