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English Heritage publishes lead theft guidance

English Heritage has issued guidance on how best to react to church roof thefts.

It comes a month after a dispute between English Heritage and churches over how best to preserve historic buildings (MRW, September 10). English Heritage wants like-for-like replacements for lead roofs that have been stolen from churches. But churches argue that stainless steel would be a cheaper replacement and thieves would still be attracted to the expensive lead if they put lead back on their roofs.

The guidance highlights the importance of prevention and the need to use a combination of security measures to deter thieves. Recommendations include locking gates to prevent vehicles getting close, preventing easy access to roofs such as removing water butts and waste bins, applying anti-climb paint to drain pipes and roof guttering, and erecting prominent warning signs.

The guidance says: English Heritage will continue to encourage the use of authentic and appropriate metals particularly on roofs. However, there will be instances when a change of material will be accepted; examples include a building that has already been a target and there is no reasonable way of implementing preventative measures. Each case will be considered on its merits.

English Heritage director of conservation Bill Martin said: Many churches are struggling with finances and we have never underestimated the burden that lead theft has brought them. I think most people treasure authentic material and do not want to lose it if they can avoid it. The guidance aims to give as much pragmatic advice as possible to help prevent the ultimate loss of our much loved heritage, and helps people to do the right thing if changes are necessary.

Ecclesiastical Insurance, the insurers of more than 95% of Anglican churches, has paid claims costing more than £9 million for metal theft in 2008.  Spokesman Chris Pitt told MRW: English Heritage guidance for churches is a step in the right direction but it doesnt solve the problem and we have got to take the problem seriously.

This still puts pressure on churches to put lead on roofs and makes them vulnerable to theft.

The constant focus on risk management is a simple thing that churches can do but ultimately they need the cooperation of the police and the local community to tackle the thieves.
However, with slight dips in scrap prices Pitt says that they have seen a slide in thefts in the last few months.

Previous story, English Heritage in dispute with churches over metal theft, (10/09/08)

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