‘INTERFERING’ council staff have been criticised for ripping apart a village bonfire just hours before an annual display was due to start.

Wolvercote resident Ian Whittington, who spent more than two weeks building up the materials for the fire, has hit back after his hard work was ruined with little notice on Bonfire Night.

The 26-year-old, who has helped organise the village’s display at the Plough pub for 13 years, said the incident had made him question whether it was worth putting on the free event again.

READ AGAIN: 'Council staff' spotted picking apart bonfire

Working under advice from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue, Oxford City Council staff insisted items including painted wood be taken out of the structure before it was burnt.

Oxford Mail:

The officers had a tractor and trailer and Mr Whittington said he had arrived on site only to find they had ‘ripped the bonfire to shreds.’

Organisers were told it was necessary to stop potentially toxic materials, including mattresses and polystyrene, from being burnt and poisoning the atmosphere.

However Mr Whittington said all of those items had already been removed.

He said: “I always start it off with a couple of pallets and then everyone else in the village comes down and adds to it.

“A week or so ago we got told the fire brigade had come down and told us we had to remove a mattress that had been put on there.

“We always take out the majorly toxic stuff - we would never expect to burn that – so we removed it as soon as we found out and we thought that was that.

“The next thing I know I get a call on Monday morning saying the fire was being pulled apart.

“It broke my heart a little bit to see, and changed my mood completely for the rest of the night.

“A lot of people told me it had been beautifully put together and they just ripped it to pieces.”

The bonfire is a highlight of the pub’s annual display which took place for the 23rd time this year.

A large fire was still able to be burnt after the inspection.

Mr Whittington said he did enjoy the evening eventually but said the incident will influence plans for next year.

He added: “This is the first time I have ever seen anything like this in all the years I have done it.

“It does make you less inclined to put so much work in next year.”

Oxford Mail:

More than 1,500 guests enjoyed the evening which also featured an outside bar with ‘gallons of mulled wine.’

Every year donations are collected for good causes with the Wolvercote Boys Club manning the collection points on Monday to raise money for its activities.

The Plough pub manager Katy Emptage said: “The bonfire was still as big as it always is. It’s a bit of a sign of the times but you have to protect the environment as much as you can.”

Oxford City Council declined to comment and the fire service said it was not involved in removing any items from the bonfire.