Mr Sturch, 50, who works at Harwich International Port, added: “It is such a shame, the park has been there for five years or more and has never been vandalised.

“There is anger, as a lot of people use it. It is especially popular with younger kids because of the equipment.”

Harwich councillor Ivan Henderson said the damage had been reported to Tendring Council, which owns and maintains the park.

Cllr Henderson said: “It is absolutely dreadful It is a well-used and much-needed park for that area. It is sad for all those parents and young children that someone has done this. The younger children especially will be devastated. It is mindless vandalism plain and simple. As soon as I heard about this I reported it to the council and it is being investigated. The pirate ship will be replaced. There are ongoing issue with anti-social behaviour from a certain element living in Bathside going back several months. I am asking police to take action. I think residents have had enough and this is too far.”

Michael Talbot, Tendring councillor responsible for environment, said investigations were underway and urged witnesses to contact police or the council.

He said: “Hopefully it will not be necessary to close off the whole play area but we will know more once we have made a site visit and assessed the situation.”