Somerset churches ‘strongly advised’ to install roof alarms

110982894 mediaitem110982893 - Somerset churches 'strongly advised' to install roof alarmsImage copyright Google
Image caption About six tonnes of lead was stolen from St Martin’s Church in Kingsbury Episcopi earlier this month

Churches in Somerset have been urged to apply for grants to install roof alarms following a spate of lead thefts.

Earlier this month burglars used the “cover of storms” to strip lead from churches in Meare, Kingsbury Episcopi, Middlezoy, and Barrington.

The Diocese of Bath and Wells said it believed the thefts were not “one-offs” but carried out by organised gangs

It warned without the alarms some insurers might only cover up to 15% of the repairs.

She said while the diocese “strongly recommended” having the roof alarms fitted, it was up to individual churches to make the decision.

According to the diocese, “at least 20 churches” in Somerset have been hit by lead thieves in the past six months.

Avon and Somerset Police said it had only received six reports in the past six months but said this could be attributed to how crimes are categorised, or if they were reported.

A spokesman urged people living near churches to be their “eyes and ears”.

Image caption Grants are available for roof alarms which can give up £2,500 towards 50% of the cost of an approved alarm

Changes to the law took place in 2013 which forced scrap dealers to have to be registered with local authorities.

They are also required to verify the names and addresses of sellers and stop cash payments for metal.

Gloucester-based Ecclesiastical insurance said this meant opportunist theft had “reduced significantly”.

“However, since 2015 we have seen an increase in large thefts, which in some cases has involved organised gangs, which involved the removal of entire church roofs.”

He said approved roof alarms were good deterrents to would-be thieves but in some circumstances insurance cover would be limited if they were not fitted.

The grants are administered by the Gloucestershire-based Allchurches Trust, and the scheme can give up £2,500 towards towards 50% of the cost of an alarm.

The cash is also available to eligible buildings in Northamptonshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Essex Norwich, Norfolk, Blackburn, and York.

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