Tees

County Durham churches hit by rising metal thefts

Scrap metal
Image caption The soaring price of scrap metal means more churches are being targeted by thieves

Church leaders in County Durham claim rising incidents of metal thefts are risking the future of some churches.

Costly repairs and even costlier hikes in insurance premiums are hitting many parishes, according to the Durham diocese of the Church of England.

In 2007/8 more than 150 insurance claims were lodged in the diocese and £550,000 paid out.

Church officials are meeting senior police officers and insurance experts in Durham to discuss the situation.

A Church of England spokesman said: "The purpose of the meeting is not only to get a better idea of the scale of the problem but, more importantly, to discuss practical solutions and find ways of combating the increasing threat of further thefts.

"Theft of metal is a huge problem. It is wider than the Church, but Church of England congregations are custodians of many of the most significant buildings in the communities they serve.

'Morale sapping'

"Many have been victims of theft with some having been hit several times.

"The damage can be extensive, not just to the building but to interior fixtures and fittings as church congregations often don't discover the theft until rainwater pours into the building.

"Any repair is vexatious, time consuming, morale sapping and costly."

Christopher Luke, warden of St Paul's Church in Spennymoor, which has been targeted several times, added: "We only discovered the latest theft during our All Souls service because of torrential rain pouring through the exposed part of the roof.

"Trying to read the names of the departed was difficult because of the water pouring into buckets.

"We did not have much lead on the roof, but what we did have was stripped away and caused extensive damage."

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