Metal thieves have been condemned for stealing a “unique feature” of Saltaire’s World Heritage Site from under the noses of villagers.

A total of 28 iron cellar grates, which date back to Victorian times, have been stolen in only three days from homes and businesses in the popular and historic village.

The thefts, described as “appalling” by the area’s MP, are the latest in a string of similar crimes where iron, copper and lead have been stripped from historic buildings.

Most of the stolen metal is sold on to unscrupulous metal dealers for scrap prices and melted down.

Shipley Tory MP Philip Davies said: “It is an appalling situation and it does a massive amount of damage to Saltaire, which has a reputation as one of the world’s most significant heritage sites.

“What I want to see is the police in a position to robustly investigate and tackle the people who are carrying out these thefts.

“We can’t just sit back and let this happen to what is the jewel in the crown of the Bradford district.”

Councillor Kevin Warnes (Green, Shipley) said: “This is horrible for the residents living nearby, and a serious loss for Saltaire as the grates are a unique feature of the World Heritage Site.

“I know that the local policing team are doing everything that they can to trace them and I would urge anyone with information to get in touch.”

The village has been repeatedly targeted by metal thieves over the past few months.

Lead was stripped from the roof of the manager’s lodge at Roberts Park earlier this year and Saltaire United Reformed Church – the final resting place of Sir Titus Salt – has had thousands of pounds of metal ripped from its roof.

Police cordoned off streets and evacuated homes and businesses after thieves sparked fears of a gas explosion by stealing copper pipes in October last year.

Bradford Council yesterday issued a warning to Saltaire residents and businesses to shackle unsecured grates.

Simon D’Vali, Bradford Council’s principal engineer for Shipley and Bradford East, said: “Ironwork thefts are becoming more and more prevalent and we would ask residents to be vigilant and take measures to secure their own cellar covers.

“We would advise residents to use heavy-duty shackles and locks bolted to the cellar wall to make them secure.”

Inspector John Tatham, of Shipley Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We are working closely with local scrap dealers and have made them aware to contact us should any items of this type be brought into them.”

English Heritage has set up a national programme with churches, police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in a bid to combat the growing problem nationally.

“Metal theft at historic places is an issue across the country and a major concern for English Heritage,” a spokesman said.

Anyone with information about the grate thefts should contact West Yorkshire Police on 0845 6060606 or anonymously contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Residents can also report missing covers to the Council on Bradford (01274) 431000.

  • Read the full story in Thursday's T&A