AN APPEAL has been made after “vile burglars” broke in to a community centre, just hours after thousands of people enjoyed one of the centre’s biggest events.

Hatch Warren and Beggarwood Community Association (HWBCA) hosted its annual Hatch Warren Summer Festival on Saturday with around 2,000 people, including the mayor of Basingstoke and Deane and the town’s MP, coming out for the day.

However, overnight that night, the association-run Hatch Warren Community Centre, in Long Cross Lane, was broken in to.

The burglars got into the centre’s youth wing - The Warren - and stole around £90 of cash and a donations tin and inflicted extensive damage to a number of doors and windows in the process with the costs still being assessed.

Karen Coomber, chairman of the centre which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, said: “There could be a connection between holding the festival and the break-in. They could have been looking for the takings from the festival which could have been on site, but they were not.

“It appears they were after money as there are electronics for the kids like laptops and consoles in there which were not touched.

“But The Warren is used by children so its terribly sad that the money could well have been kids’ pocket money they spent at the tuck shop at their session on Friday night. It is just terrible.”

The centre is also bolstering its security on site.

The community has already rallied around the centre which is largely self-funded and run mostly by volunteers.

Mrs Coomber added: “We were getting so many emails from people saying how much they enjoyed the festival and had such a great time. And once people heard about the break-in, they were then emailing saying how sorry they were and how they could help.

“Its awful this has happened but we will learn from it and take the positives that so many people enjoyed the festival, they care for the centre and we can carry on as a community centre.”

This was the third year the festival has been held on fields near to the centre with more than 65 stalls, more than 50 volunteers helping out at the event which takes around six months to organise.

Hampshire Constabulary is investigating the incident, which took place between 6pm on Saturday, July 8 and 8am on Sunday, July 9.

Anyone with any information should call police on 101, quoting the reference number 44170262752, or the centre on 01256 811 262.