'Vigilantism and blind stupidity': Mayor condemns Newport arson attack he believes was over student parking row
Vigilantism and 'blind stupidity' is not the answer to dealing with parking problems, Newport's mayor has said after three student cars were set on fire.
Councillor Peter Scott blamed the 'us and them' attitude between those who live in Newport and students at Harper Adams, but said he was saddened and shocked that someone had taken such a 'crazy and dangerous' step.
His comments come after a police investigation was launched into the series of car fires, which happened on Victoria Park Road at 1.35am yesterday.
The fire was initially started at the site of one car and then spread to two others nearby.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue investigation officers have confirmed the car was set alight deliberately.
Councillor Scott said: "I am saddened and shocked to hear that three student cars were destroyed by fire last night. It appears to be a deliberate attack and is being investigated by the police.
"I appreciate that some have complained about some student parking but this crazy and dangerous act is not the way to deal with it.
"Such blind stupidity endangers life and perpetrators are likely to get a custodial sentence.
"We must stop this us and them attitude towards students. Newport is and will remain a student town. If you have any complaints about any student behaviour you should contact the university.
"There must be no repeat of last night. Vigilantism is not the answer. If anyone does not want to report to the university then please contact me or other councillors with addresses and we will speak on your behalf.
"Bad parking may be irritating but it is not and never will be a reason to endanger the lives of others. We must all try harder to live together in harmony."
Councillor Thomas Janke, who represents Newport on Telford & Wrekin Council, said: "I would like to think that idiots haven't taken matter into their own hands for the sake of some inconsiderate or illegal parking. There's much more civil ways to deal with disputes of this nature, talking to each other for one.
"Arson is a very serious crime with serious implications including custodial sentences if found guilty. It will not be tolerated in our town full stop.
"We are a community, students and indigenous residents alike. Those promoting division aren't welcome."
Harper Adams University has said a meeting will be held with themselves, the police and the town's authorities in light of the incident.
A spokesman for the university has also urged anyone with issues to contact them directly - or the police if a crime has been committed.
A spokesman for Harper Adams University said: "Our Student Services team, West Mercia Police, Mayor Peter Scott, Newport PubWatch, the Night-Time Economy Team and landlord representatives already work together to address issues within the community and to foster good relationships between university students and other residents.
"An extra meeting between these representatives is due to be held in coming days to address the events of this week.
"The university is supporting the police with their enquiries following the incident on Victoria Park, whilst also supporting the individuals affected.
"Residents are reminded that complaints about student behaviour should always be communicated directly to the university’s Student Services department by calling 01952 815396 or emailing email@example.com
"Posting on social media, sending Facebook messages, or sharing anonymous tweets slows down the investigation process – it is always best to contact Student Services directly to allow the team to gather all of the facts and take appropriate action.
"The university urges residents to also contact the police on 101 if they believe a crime has been committed and will continue to assist the police with investigations as required."
To contact the university, call 01952 815396 or email Student Services on StudentServices@harper-adams.ac.uk
Anybody with information about the fire can call police on 101, citing reference number 38-S-050220.
Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org
Local residents have their say
Liz Christopher, 66, who just moved to the area, said: "I haven't been here long, but the students seem to get a bad wrap. People seem to complain about noise and parking, but we've all been young.
"We should work together to make sure they are accepted into the community."
One man, who asked not to be named, said: "Every single year we have problems with students. There are some near us that blast music at all hours and fill the street with cars.
"I don't know if this arson attack has anything to do with students or not, but I will say more needs to be done to make sure they fit in more with the people who live here all year around."