Insole Court: Cardiff metal thieves put restoration plans in jeopardy

Insole Court porch roof stripped of lead
Image caption Workers inspect the damage after lead was stripped from the porch roof

Metal thieves may have dashed £5m plans to restore a Grade II-listed Victorian mansion in Cardiff.

Insole Court was targeted for a fourth time in just over a month, but locked gates prevented the gang from taking lead from the porch roof away.

But the lead was rolled up and placed in bins, leaving the roof at the mercy of torrential rain.

Fundraisers say the damage caused could add tens of thousands of pounds to the restoration bill.

The Insole Court Trust has raised more than £250,000 towards the restoration, and last week was given planning permission to convert outbuildings into a visitor centre and tearooms.

Sir Norman Lloyd-Edwards, chairman of the trust, said: "It's so frustrating that the lead they were attempting to steal was worth just £700, yet the cost of repairing the damage could run into many tens of thousands.

"We're extremely worried at this recent spate of attacks on Insole Court, because at present we're set to take over management of the property at the end of 2014.

"But every time something is stolen it means more cost to put it right, and pushes us further and further away from achieving our ultimate ambition of saving the house and creating something of real value to the local community."

The mansion and gardens were built in 1856 by coal entrepreneur James Harvey Insole.

He extended the mansion and developed it over the years, including a tower based on that designed by William Burges at Cardiff Castle.

Cardiff council compulsorily-purchased the estate in 1932, and after it fell into disrepair they have recently been working with the trust to turn it into a community building.

'Mindless vandalism'

Blueprints for the work have been on display since March 2012.

Huw Thomas, Cardiff council's cabinet member for sport, leisure and culture, said: "Insole Court is an extremely important and historical landmark in Cardiff and I am disgusted that these thefts have taken place.

"The community have really come together over the restoration plans for the facility and this comes as a real kick in the teeth for them.

"It is mindless vandalism from a small minority with no respect for their own society.

"The council is liaising with the police to increase patrols in the area and different security options are being considered."

South Wales Police say that forensic officers are making a detailed search of the area, and are tracing the owners of a black Renault Cleo which was found abandoned near the scene.

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