Police have issued a warning over the rise of woodburner thieves – who are chopping down trees in a Devon park to get their fuel.
Officers say people who own the trendy fireplaces are avoiding paying for wood and simply getting their own from the park.
The fears have been sparked after around 15 trees at Central Park in Plymouth have been chopped down, sparking outrage from users of the much-loved 188-acre site.
Now the city council has warned the ‘selfish opportunists’ responsible that they will be prosecuted if they are caught in the act.
Grounds manager Gareth Harrison-Poole said several trees had been partially felled, threatening children playing underneath.
He said many of the trees were young, allowing them to be carried away, and added: “We suspect opportunists looking for cheap wood burner fuel are to blame.”
Councillor Brian Vincent, Plymouth City Council cabinet member for the environment, said: “You can’t have people chopping down trees in our parks.
“It is an act of extreme selfishness to take – steal from the public – natural assets that we all enjoy. Chopping down trees can be harmful to the wildlife which lives in them.
“We will not tolerate this behaviour and if we catch the culprits we will be seeking legal advice with a view to prosecution.”
Harry Roper of nearby Torridge District Council, said: “We are quite a rural area – if people wanted to do that kind of thing there are plenty of quiet places they could go.”
Richard Simpson, of Plymouth-based South West Fires and Flues, said the firm installed about 600 woodburners in the city area last year, a 400 per cent increase in five years.
He said: “It’s driven by hikes in gas and electric prices, but now the price of logs has gone up too so people are trying to resource their wood where they can.”
Anyone who sees anything suspicious is asked to call the police on 101 or the council’s parks team on 01752 606034.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said cutting down trees in public parks is illegal and people caught would be prosecuted.