Thieves are leaving taxpayers with a £250,000 annual bill because of the sheer volume of Yorkshire stone and metal they keep stealing from Bradford landmarks and roads.
Such is the problem that even gravestones have been stolen from an historic graveyard.
Bradford Council’s heritage champion, Councillor Val Slater, is now set to meet English Heritage officers in the New Year to develop a long-term strategy including a Heritage Watch scheme aimed at raising the vigilance levels of residents in ‘at risk’ areas.
Figures exclusively obtained by the Telegraph & Argus reveal that the thefts include 385 gully lids, including drains and manhole covers, which have been stolen for their scrap value from last November to this August alone, leaving Bradford Council with a bill of £73,000.
Added to that is the considerable cost of repairs and replacements caused by thieves stripping lead from Council-owned buildings.
Yorkshire Stone paving flagstones have also been stolen from Bolling Hall Museum in Bradford, costing the taxpayer £22,000 to replace the gravel paths, and within the last year there have been 18 reported thefts of paving flagstones on the road network. In October, thieves stole gravestones from the Old Bell Chapel, also known as the Bronte Bell Chapel, opposite St James’s Church in Thornton Road, Thornton.
Coun Slater said: “This is your money and my money and council tax money and we shouldn’t have to spend it.
“There has been a big increase in Heritage crime and vandalism and it is important we try to pull our strengths together to tackle it.
“We must be looking at losing a quarter of a million pounds a year if you tot it up. It is the lead off roofs, the metal grids and drains, the Yorkshire stone being taken.
“Taking manhole covers causes accidents and people can fall into them. It is frustrating because if we don’t have to keep paying out to replace things you have more money to spend things on other services that people need.”
A police spokesman said some stolen Yorkshire stone had been seized by officers in the Airedale and North Bradford division.
A 21-year-old man was also arrested last month in connection with the theft of gravestones at St James’s Church in Thornton. After questioning he was released on bail pending further inquiries.
Airedale and North Bradford Division, Neighbourhood Policing Team Chief Inspector Darren Williams, said: “Stone and metal thefts are of equal concern and we are working very hard to identify those responsible while advising local heritage sites and businesses of the potential preventative measures they can introduce.
"We welcome the support of partners in tackling these issues within our district and we would always look to consider any opportunity that would assist in making a difference to reducing these types of offences."
Henry Owen-John, English Heritage planning director, warned earlier this year that damage done to a listed building or archaeological site can often not be put right and centuries of history can be lost.