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Oxford residents complain about South Park damage following bonfire night

Residents have complained that the fireworks display left South Park damaged, possibly for the entire winter, as vehicles used to set up the display churned the turf in the wet conditions. Some people who live near the park complained to the city council that Oxford Round Table, the organisers of the fireworks, failed to protect the ground with sheeting. About 40 complaints were lodged with the City Council.

The display was the 55th Annual Charity Fireworks Display and was viewed by more than 20,000 people inside the park. All profits are donated to charity and over the years more than £1 million has been raised for charities through these displays. Last year £85,000 was donated, according to the Council.  

Members of the Round Table who have organised this charity display told the BBC that they are “absolutely heartbroken” at the complaints as, while most people enjoyed the spectacle, they feel “bombarded constantly by a small number of residents”. The fireworks were organised by unpaid volunteers.

The City Council has said that the heavy rain in the preceding week meant the ground was more saturated and so the heavy footfall also caused damage to the turf during the event. They also identified the role of climate change in delaying frosts and resulting in wetter autumns each year, resulting in a wetter ground and thus more damage.

Ground rectification works can not be done until the ground has dried out but Oxford Roundtable are hopeful that the park could be “recovered by Christmas” and stated that there won’t be lasting damage because the areas affected will be rolled by council staff at the first opportunity.

Christian Petersen, a representative for Oxford Round Table said: “This happens every year – we plan for the council to undertake rectification works.”

The park has suffered similar damage in previous years. 2012 saw much more extensive damage after hosting the Olympic Torch event following a very wet summer. As a result, Oxford’s city council stated that they have “every confidence” that a prompt return to normal “will be repeated on this occasion”.

Moreover, Chewe Munkonge, cabinet member for leisure and parks, recognised the concerns but said that they had to be balanced against the huge popularity of the event and the significant fundraising role that the display plays in supporting local charities. He also reiterated that the council will investigate what further steps can be taken to reduce the impact and take financially viable steps.

The City Council has said that Oxford Round Table will fund the repair work and discussions are taking place to investigate what can be done to reduce this impact in years to come.

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