Church flooded after lead theft

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A WETHERBY church has been flooded after thieves stripped lead from the roof.

The roof was targeted between 4pm and 6.20am on August 24-25 at St James Church Centre on Church street.

Caretaker Eric Bean said the damage had caused major flooding inside the church rooms.

He said: “There were gallons of water everywhere, I’ve never seen so much water in all my life.

“Luckily for us it is the school holidays so the rooms are used less, but if it had happened when schools were back, we would have had to close.

“They had taken lead from the chimney too so there was a lot of soot damage to that as well.”

“I think it is bad for the community when people are targeting church rooms and school areas to steal things.

“Stealing anything is wrong. People should work to make their money.”

Mr Bean added that the cost of the damage would not be known until initial work undertaken by him had been done to try to fix the roof.

Insp Marcus Griffiths, of Wetherby Police, said lead thefts had been a problem in the area for some time.

He said: “Lead thefts are still happening in the area, and we had a spate of thefts around four to five months ago in Boston Spa.

“With the price of general commodities going up, opportunist thieves are taking advantage of this and targeting buildings at night.

“I think this is a growing problem nationally, and we are not being specifically targeted in the Wetherby area.”

Alice Ullathorne, who is the Church Bulidings Support Officer for Ripon and Leeds Diocese, told the Wetherby News: “Metal thefts from church buildings is the biggest threat we are facing at the moment.

“The problem of metal thefts to churches in West Yorkshire has been ongoing for a long period of time and now we are seeing an increase in North Yorkshire too.

“Metal thefts seems to be becoming more and more an organised and sophisticated crime.

“There is a lot churches can do for themselves to prevent this happening, and we are working together on this at the moment.

“For example making access to the roofs harder for thieves to climb up, installing CCTV cameras and also not leaving wheelie bins near the church as a lot of metal theft is then transported in wheelie bins away from the scene by people who commit these crimes.”

Ecclesiastical Insurance, who are the main insurers for churches in the UK, estimate the cost over the past four years for metal thefts claims for churches have now exceeded £21 million, with over 7,000 claims.

An e-petition has been created on the government website DirectGov, which opened on August 8, underlining the growing concern of metal theft.

An e-petition currently requires 100,000 signatures within a year before it qualifies to be debated in the House of Commons.

l Anyone who saw anything suspicious should contact Insp Marcus Griffiths at Wetherby Police Station on 0113 2855374. Or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.