Diocese in call for vigilance after lead thefts spate
THE DIOCESE of York has asked the public for help after a spate of lead thefts at five of its churches.
Historic church buildings at Sledmere, Drax, Skipwith, Cottingham and North Cave have been targeted in the past two months, with lead roofing and flashings used to waterproof the structures taken.
Keith Halliday, Church Buildings Adviser for the Diocese, said: “Communities feel very protective towards their church and these thefts are felt very keenly; replacement is extremely costly and insurance cover is restricted.
“We work with insurers and with the police to offer advice on improving security but in the end the only protection against this criminal action is vigilance on everyone’s part.
“If you see someone working on a church roof, don’t hesitate to ask them about the work they’re doing - where it’s legitimate there may be an interesting story about a well-loved building - but if you’re concerned then call the police.”
Removal of lead sheets exposes the timber roof and often the historic interior and contents of the church to water ingress and in many cases the first sign that lead has been stolen from a high-level roof is water damage underneath.
Michael Angell, Church Operations Director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, the UK’s leading insurer of church buildings, said lead thefts had fallen since their peak in 2008 to 2011, due to heightened security measures and greater controls at scrap yards.
He said: “However, since 2015 we have seen an increase in large thefts perpetrated by organised gangs, which involved the removal of entire church roofs.
“This trend has not declined and as the value of lead continues to increase and it is fair to assume that the volume and severity of incidents of metal theft will also increase.”