Theft of metal
The Government is passing legislation to outlaw the disposal of metal for cash. This will be a significant step forward in the ongoing battle against the theft of metal from churches. However, the risk of theft will remain high and parishes should take all steps they can to deter theft. Detailed advice is available on the DAC web pages.
Theft of lead, copper and other metals unfortunately continues to be a costly and painful problem for churches. The cost of damage and repairs far exceeds the actual cost of any lead stolen. There are many practical ways in which parishes can minimise the risk of theft. This page provides advice on assessing your particular risk, preventive measures, what to do if you do suffer a lead theft, how to report theft, and detailed guidance on alternative materials to lead. It’s important for parishes to report any theft to the police immediately. It’s also vital for parishes separately to complete the online heritage crime reporting form (see below), as this will help to keep the scale and nature of thefts from churches high on the political agenda, and help the Police to track and prosecute thieves specifically stealing from churches.
Assess the particular risk for your church
Ecclesiastical Insurance have produced a very useful Risk Asessment Tool for parishes.
The following guidance notes contain a great deal of practical information about measures parishes can take to deter metal theft:
1. Ensure that lightning conductor tapes, braded ropes etc are tightly fixed to the masonry and cannot be prised away to assist with scaling walls.
2. Rainwater pipes at higher level, i.e. out of ground level reach can be coated with anti-climb grease etc of which there are a number of proprietary products around.
3. Sensor operated lighting on concealed and shaded areas and low level roofs is relatively cheap and whilst not a complete deterrent exposes the culprits to a higher risk of detection.
4. Speak to the neighbours – make sure they are aware of the threat and ask them to keep a look-out and to report any suspicious activity.
The Smartwater forensic coding system is a requirement of most insurance policies. It is just one of the tools available to parishes and it should be used in conjunction with other security measures: it is not a reliable deterrent just on its own, but is ery useful for securing prosecutions in the wider fight against metal theft. See SmartWater success stories.
Roof Alarm System
The most effective deterrent is a monitored roof alarm system. The Churches Purchasing Scheme offers such a system which is approved by Ecclesiastical Insurance, who increase their insurance cover from £5,000 to £10,000 per insurance period for this particular system (as at July 2011). The system uses wireless motion detectors and can therefore in most cases be installed easily without the need for a faculty, though you still need to obtain authorisation in advance via the DAC. Additionally, some other firms offer wireless systems which also incorporate CCTV linked to a monitoring centre to avoid the trouble and expense of security staff attending the scene for false activations by birds, weather, etc. which can be an issue with "blind" alarm systems. Parishes should always discuss any specific proposals with their insurer in the first instance, as the insurer will need to be content that the proposed contractor is suitably accredited (e.g. NACOSS) and experienced, and that the proposed equipment is suitable - particularly if they are considering extending their insurance cover. Contractors not already approved by Ecclesiastical can apply to them by contacting: CSD.Queries@ecclesiastical.com. Suitable accreditation and experience are also in the parish's interest: you don't want to be spending money on a system which is not effective, or employ a firm with little sympathy for historic buildings. The parish must seek advice from their church architect if their building is listed, to ensure that any proposed fixings etc. would not damage historic fabric. Whether or not the building is listed, parishes must send details (including a church plan showing locations of sensors, control panels and wiring routes) in advance to the DAC Office who will advise on any necessary permissions, consultations or other issues.
If you suffer lead theft:
1) Inform the police
2) Seek advice from your church architect
3) Inform the DAC Office
4) Undertake temporary repairs (normally in felt) as necessary to keep watertight. Your architect can advise on suitable contractors. You should obtain at least verbal authorisation from the Archdeacon or DAC Office before undertaking any temporary repairs.
5) Consider alternative materials to lead for the permanent repairs - or improved security measures - to avoid repeat theft. Advice is available on these web pages.
6) If your building is listed and you propose permanent repairs in a material other than lead, you must go through the faculty process (but see below for urgent cases) and undertake appropriate consultations with English Heritage and the local planning authority. You may also need to consult the relevant amenity society depending on the nature and visibility of the roof in question.
7) See the section below about how to report lead theft and other crime, and take any action that applies in your case. reporting Lead Theft and Otheran
8) In urgent cases, you can request an Interim Licence via the DAC Office for undertaking permanent repairs quickly. You need to support an Interim Licence request with the following:
a) a brief description of why the Licence is being requested
b) the work specification from your architect
c) photographs of the roof and building
d) if your building is listed, check with the DAC Office to see whether you will need to
provide comments from the local planning authority, English Heritage or a
relevant amenity society.
You must not undertake any material change without first obtaining appropriate authorisation.
Alternative Materials to Lead
In some cases, roof coverings will remain vulnerable to repeat theft due to the intrinsic design of the building. In such cases, the DAC and heritage bodies are sympathetic to the practical and often very significant problems which repeat theft would cause to parishes. Therefore, suitable alternative materials can be considered after a lead theft but parishes should speak in the first instance with their Church Architect who will advise on the best option. They then need to consult with the relevant heritage bodies and their local planning department, as well as with the DAC. The Church Buildings Council has issued detailed guidance on the relative merits of alternative materials - details in their guidance note Alternative Roofing Materials to Lead.
Parishes should bear in mind that their insurers may well not cover them for lead theft whilst there is scaffolding erected around any part of the church building. They should consult their insurers before scaffolding goes up and take appropriate action to guard against unauthorised access (e.g. by secure boarding at the base of the scaffolding), taking advice as appropriate from their architect. An important update (March 2011) from Ecclesiastical Insurance about their insurance cover is available here.
Reporting lead theft and other crime
The Diocese is working closely with local councils and police to help tackle the lead theft problem. If your church has suffered lead theft or any other crime from 2006 onwards -
The impact of lead theft and other crime against church buildings is often not fully appreciated by the secular authorities. Submitting a Heritage Crime Impact Statement can help to bring the impact of such crime to the attention of the courts.
Wider initiatives against lead theft
The Church Buildings Council is lobbying for improved controls over scrap metal dealers, a tighter national sentencing policy in relation to lead theft, improved government strategies for identifying and intercepting illegal exports of metal, and the ability of churches to claim against the Proceeds of Crime Recovery Fund. Details are in their Report of the Working Party on Metal Theft (updated March 2012). If you wish to write to your Member of parliament in support of this report, a good way to do it is online via Write to them.
The Alliance to Reduce Crime Against Heritage (A.R.C.H) is a new initiative by heritage agencies, the Police, Crown Prosecution Service and local authorities in a national crackdown on thieves and vandals targeting
The Local Government Authority published a Metal Theft Toolkit in October 2012.
There's an e-petition to lobby government to ban cash-in-hand transactions for metal dealers. Such a ban would be a huge step forward in the fight against lead theft from churches and other historic buildings. Please sign the e-petition today!
Churches Conservation Trust - an outline of their approach to protecting churches