Manchester diocese 'has most church lead thefts in UK'
Churches in Manchester have had more more lead thefts this year than any other area of the UK, according to an insurance company.
More than 90 claims were made by churches in the diocese up to the end of November, Ecclesiastical said.
The city was followed by Lincoln, Chelmsford and Southwark dioceses which all had more than 70 claims.
A total of 1,484 claims have been received by Ecclesiastical from UK churches, costing the firm over £3m.
Manchester, Lincoln, Chelmsford, Southwark and Lichfield made up more than 25% of the claims.
John Coates, from Ecclesiastical, said: "It's been a pretty dire year for lead theft with Manchester and these four other dioceses bearing the brunt of the problem.
"With lead and other valuable metals fetching high prices on world markets, it's not surprising that criminals have been hard at work stripping churches and exposing them to the elements.
"After the slight reprieve of 2009 when we saw a slight decrease in the number of theft of metal claims, this year has once again proved that the issue isn't going to go away without a more focused effort on a national level to stamp out this crime."
He urged the government to take "serious action and stop the systematic destruction of our nation's heritage".
"The key message we have tried and will continue to try to get across is that theft of metal isn't a crime that simply affects the church buildings," Mr Coates said.
"It is a crime that has a devastating impact on the people and communities that support our churches and depend on them in their everyday lives."
David Marshall, spokesman for the Church of England in Manchester, said: "Manchester has been particularly hit by metal theft from our church roofs.
"All our parishes have received information about making their buildings secure against theft. This includes restricting access to roof spaces and installing television cameras."
The diocese has also set up a website - beatmetaltheft.org - to advise on how to keep churches safe.
This year is expected to be the third worst year for metal theft, after 2007 and 2008.