A GANG of yobs has completely destroyed a woodland play area in Bradford on Avon in an arson attack this afternoon.

Police are seeking a group of five teenagers who set fire to the woodland play area close to the town's Kingston Farm Estate in an act of mindless vandalism.

They have seized two bicycles chained to a fence by a quick-thinking local after the gang fled the scene just after 2.30pm today.

Residents had desperately tried to put out the blaze before fire crews arrived from Bradford on Avon fire station.

Cllr Mike Roberts said: “It is absolutely appalling. What they have done is absolutely disgusting. It beggars belief that people can do this.

"The teenagers were seen carrying books picked up from outside a house owned by a local author who had offered them free to anyone who wanted them.

"They took them to the woodland play area near the Kingston Farm Estate and set fire to them using canisters.

"Police and fire officers have found a canister at the scene. I heard the explosion from where I live."

As the blaze spiralled out of control, it completely destroyed wooden play equipment in a woodland play area for children aged three and over.

After neighbours heard the explosion and came out to investigate, the yobs were challenged and fled from the scene through fields towards the railway tracks.

In their bid to escape, they left behind two bicycles and one local locked them to the fence to prevent them from being recovered later by the teenagers.

Police have since impounded the bikes as evidence and have taken them away.

Cllr Roberts said the play area had only recently been gifted to Bradford on Avon Town Council by the Kingston Farm Estate developers C G Fry & Son Ltd, of Dorchester.

He added: "The wooden play equipment, climbing ropes and rubber matting has been completely destroyed. There's nothing left.

"There was another play area only about five yards away and thankfully that wasn't touched.

"We don't yet know how much it's going to cost to replace the equipment.

"I would urge parents to check whether their teenagers still have their bike when they come home.

"If they haven't, they should report the loss to the police, who I am sure will be interested."