VIDEO: Vandals strike at community garden

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A DEVASTATED gardener has spoken out against vandals who smashed up an urban farm which helps hundreds of disabled and unemployed people in Burnley.

Chris Knowles, who has low-level autism, was gutted to find heartless yobs had caused £2,500 worth of damage to the Pennine Lancashire Community Farm.

The 24-year-old was filmed surveying the damage at the March Street farm, where he has worked for two years, and questioned why vandals would target people with learning difficulties.

In his saddening video, he said: “I don’t know how much longer I can take this. When I first came there was none of this.

“It is disgusting. I’m not a copper but if I was a copper I would say ‘why are you doing this to lads with all these learning difficulties?’

“They love coming here. Everybody likes it. I like it and I’m not even severe. I am on the mild form spectrum and they don’t care no matter what ability level. They think it’s good to trash it.

“The little kids will be shocked. They want to learn and yet if we get it trashed what can we do?

“It is bad. It is too bad to mend.”

The attack saw two polytunnels trashed and water pumps ripped up at the site which works with hundreds of people on the Branch Out project, The Chilli Club and Grown and Learn.

James Horsford, who manages the Pennine Lancashire Community Farm, said: “The video shows how important these projects are to people with quite diverse needs.

“Chris is low-level autistic spectrum with some learning difficulties but what he talks about is how it makes him feel. He talks about how he is very demoralised and very hurt by it.

“He talks about how he is concerned for the other people and adults with learning difficulties and also the children.

“He is expressing his concerns which to me shows the whole idea of the project is not about one person or one group but about them all coming together and creating community cohesion which is as a society how we all pull together.

“When you see vandalism like this we need more and more people in the community to rise up and take ownership and say it is unacceptable.

“Only when communities do this will we address issues of sporadic stupidity.”

James explained that the cost of repairing the damage would be a huge hit to the project at a time when there is very little funding around.

He added: “The vandals don’t see the knock-on effect. Financially we are looing at £2,500 to repair the damage and as a small charity that is money we simply don’t have.”