STONE thieves have struck in the heart of the World Heritage Site of Saltaire, just weeks before the village holds a festival to celebrate its heritage.

Three large slabs of Yorkshire Stone were prised from the wall of a raised plant bed at Washhouse Gardens, off Caroline Street.

Two of the stone slabs have been taken from the gardens, while one remains at the scene of the theft, propped up against the planter.

It is thought that the theft occurred on Thursday evening or early Friday morning.

Both West Yorkshire Police and Bradford Council are investigating the incident.

The gardens are popular throughout the year, but especially at events including Saltaire Festival and the Saltaire Arts Trail, with activities and art installations often based there.

And the Saltaire Heritage Weekend, celebrating the area’s unique history, takes place in just a few weeks, from April 22-23.

The walls were left damaged after the slabs at the top were removed.

Dina Plowes, who helped raise funds to maintain the gardens, said: “I was told about it on Friday, people told me slabs had been taken off the wall.

“It is an important community space, people are able to go there and pick herbs.

“It is the second time it has happened, I think there was a theft of stone from here about four years ago. Because of the area’s heritage I’m sure everyone will be keen to get these fixed as soon as possible.

“I hope it does get sorted soon, over Easter there are lots of events on in the village, and you want it to look nice.

“I’d say that if anyone offers any stone going cheap, don’t buy it.”

A spokesman for Bradford Council said: “The theft of stone flags from Saltaire has been reported to us and we are investigating the matter.”

The communal area gets its name from a former washhouse built for the village’s workers in the 1860s.

The building, which included male and female baths as well facilities to wash and dry clothes, was demolished in 1894. The area is now a communal garden space, where residents can pick vegetables and herbs such as fennel.

Local groups Veg on the Edge and the Saltaire Village Society help with the upkeep of the gardens.