AN historic ginnel in Otley has fallen victim to Yorkshire Stone thieves.

Several stone slabs were taken from Church Lane, which runs between Kirkgate and Westgate, early last week.

Councillor Graham Kirkland (Lib Dem, Otley and Wharfedale) said it was a great shame.

"These slabs must have been between 300 and 400 years old and the ginnel is probably the only one in the town that is of any age.

"It's a great shame, but the problem is knowing what to do about it. Unless these people are actually seen, it's difficult to catch them."

It is believed that the thieves parked in nearby Westgate car park.

Coun Kirkland added: "The slabs must have weighed between 400 and 500 hundredweight, it must have taken some effort to get them out."

The slabs have now been replaced by Leeds City Council.

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: "We have carried out repairs to Church Lane and replaced some stone slabs which were stolen.

"There is not a huge problem with thefts of this kind across the city.

"However, there have been some spates of thefts in certain areas from time to time, most recently in Roundhay.

"This is a nuisance as the stones are quite expensive, but it is difficult to keep a watch over every street in Leeds."

Meanwhile, several other properties in the area have also fallen victim to stone thieves.

And police at Weetwood are urging people to be on the lookout for any suspicious looking workmen.

Peter Krushniak, neighbourhood liasion officer at Weetwood, urged people to report to the police anyone they saw removing stone.

"Even if workmen look bona fide they might not be and it is easier for us to check them out," he said.

The other incidents across Wharfedale and Aireborough, which police are appealing for witnesses to, include:

l 12 stone flags were taken from a garden path in Arthington Lane, Arthington, sometime between Tuesday and Thursday last week.

l Two chimney pots, used as ornaments, were taken from a garden of a house in Arthington Lane, overnight between Wednesday and Thursday last week.

l Eight paving slabs were taken from the rear of business premises in Towngate Close, Guiseley, sometime between Thursday and Friday last week.

l Two homes in Bramhope had stone taken from their garden patios between Thursday and Friday last week.

l Paving slabs were taken from a garden in Hawksworth on Friday last week.

Anyone with any information should telephone Weetwood Police Station on (0113) 241 3459 or Crimestoppers on (0800) 555111. You do not have to give your name and you may be entitled to a reward.

Two weeks ago, the Wharfedale Observer reported how a Guiseley church is considering selling all its Yorkshire Stone slabs in a desperate bid to stop them from being taken by thieves.

Sections of St Oswald's Church yard and most recently a whole path have been dug up and taken away from the parish church in six separate raids over the past two years.

In the most recent haul, 36 slabs worth more than £2,000 went missing.