A MUCH-LOVED community project has been dealt a blow after a heartless thug smashed up its van costing them hundreds of pounds in repairs and hampering their Christmas campaign for needy families and young carers.

CCTV captured the culprit smashing his way into the Positive Cycles vehicle while it was parked in the Positive Steps car park in Medtia Place, on Union Street, in the early hours of November 1.

When attempts to hot-wire and steal the van - a vital lifeline to the organisation which trains up young people and volunteers to refurbish bikes to either donate or sell on affordably to Oldham families and those embarking on the road back into work - failed the offender maliciously smashed the dashboard and radio before making off at around 3am.

The attack has so far cost Positive Cycles £500 but the transport was so badly damaged it has forced them to launch an appeal to help fund a new one.

The incident also meant they had to cancel a pre-arranged trip to collect donated bikes and 75 bags of toys and clothes which are to be handed out to local families by Positive Steps Early Help team to help ease the financial burden of Christmas as well as to the young carers they support.

Darren Whiston, Positive Steps business development manager, said the sickening vandalism comes just weeks after someone stole the vehicle's battery.

"Obviously we are disappointed someone felt the need to do this," said Darren.

"It's caused us a massive inconvenience, cost us money and could have been severely detrimental to the specialist service we provide however we have to dust ourselves down and carry on.

"We've just about managed to get it back on the road but we need the public's help because it won't last us long term and, in the light of these incidents, we need something much more secure to stop this happening again and again.

"We have been considering replacing the van and this has been the push we needed. We've decided to launch a crowdfunding bid to help us towards buying a new one and we'll be launching an appeal on our website.

"In an ideal world we'd like an electric van as it fits with our cleaner, greener ethos but we have to be realistic as to what we can afford."

Positive Cycles vital work also extends to Oldham Youth Justice Service which involves young offenders in the bike repair and renovation project as part of their unpaid community work.

To find out more about helping their crowdfunding bid to buy a new van go to www.positive-steps.org.uk/positive-steps-extra/positive-cycles.