YOBS have been given a “severe warning” after smashing their way into a disused community centre.

A group of boys broke into the Moulsham Lodge Community Centre, in Waltham Glen, Chelmsford, at about 1pm on Friday.

They damaged a fence which surrounds the building which has been empty since 2005 but has been the focus of a campaign involving local councillors and residents to have it reopened.

Damage was also caused to the roof which was smashed and metal hoarding was pulled off, with emergency repairs having to be carried out over the weekend.

Police officers were called and caught four of the boys.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “After detaining the youths, we took them back to their parents and gave them a severe warning.

“Our officers also gave them some words of advice about their future conduct.

“No arrests were made.”

The centre was opened in 1972 but has not been used for the past seven years after a lease for the property was not agreed.

Essex County Council has control of the site, but in recent years campaigners have been seeking to reopen the venue for community activities.

Mark Springett, Lib Dem councillor for Moulsham Lodge, who helped form the Moulsham Lodge Community Trust to look at restoring the venue, said the latest break-in was sad to hear.

He said it could have been avoided if the centre was being used.

Mr Springett added: “A number of people have got in there while it has been empty and caused a bit of mischief, but this time round it seemed like the break-in was more brutal.

“It would not have happened if the centre was being used because it would have deterred most criminals if they had seen people using it.

“Even if the fence which is around the compound was regularly inspected then that could act as a deterrent as well.”