Council leaders have reacted to complaints that the fireworks display at the weekend left South Park in a damaged state.

It was the 55th Annual Charity Fireworks Display on Saturday night and organisers Oxford Round Table said the event was "a great success".

More than 20,000 people poured into the park below Headington Hill to see the display featuring a large bonfire and the night is expected to raise more than £50,000 for local charities. 

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But residents and users of the park have pointed out that the turf was left churned up by vehicles accessing the site.

The city council owns the park after it was donated to the city by Oxford Preservation Trust in 1959 for public use.

Oxford Mail: Oxford Round Table fireworksThe city council said in a statement: "The period of prolonged heavy rainfall in the week leading up to the event left the ground saturated, resulting in areas of the park becoming rutted and churned by the event set up and heavy footfall during the event itself.

"Following concerns raised, discussions are taking place with key stakeholders to investigate what steps can be taken to reduce the impacts on the park in future years.

"However, the effect of climate change has significantly delayed the onset of the frosts and led to more regular wetter autumns.

"This poses a serious challenge to any events now taking place later in the year, and anything put in place to try to reduce impacts has to be financially viable, particularly at a time when the costs to hold larger events have already significantly increased in recent years.

"Ground rectification works will take place as soon as possible, but this can only be done once the ground has dried out; attempting to do this while it’s still saturated is just likely to make the situation worse.

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"The cost of the work will be covered by the Round Table, with no costs accruing to the council."

Oxford Mail: Damage to South ParkThe park suffered similar and more extensive areas of churning created by the Olympic Torch event held there in 2012 following one of the wettest summers on record.

"The park was promptly returned to normal following ground rectification works and there is every confidence this will be repeated on this occasion," the council added.

Oxford Mail: Chewe Munkonge, cabinet member for leisure and parks, said: “The impacts on South Park resulting from the heavy rainfall leading up to the annual firework event this year is regrettable, but rectification works will be carried out as soon as conditions allow.

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“Although concerns have understandably been raised, this has to be balanced against the huge popularity of this event, and the vitally important funds raised to support local charities at a time when they are under considerable financial pressure.

“While we fully understand residents' concerns over the damage to the park, it will be restored just as soon as conditions allow.

"We will investigate what further steps can be taken to reduce impacts in future years, but our changing climate will make this challenging and any unreasonable financial pressures on the event will simply lead to it becoming unviable.”

The fireworks event is run entirely by volunteers from the Round Table which donates all the profits to charity.

Last year £85,000 was donated, according to the council, providing vital support for a range of local charities.

Oxford Round Table has said the way the event was run will be reviewed.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

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