A new registration law for scrap metal dealers has been welcomed by a vicar whose churches have lost thousands of pounds worth of lead in multiple raids.
But the Rev Ian Walters – who looks after Anglican churches in Gosberton and Quadring – is pleading with the public to remain vigilant as metal thieves are believed to be shipping their ill gotten gains out of the country.
Mr Walters said: “Someone said to me that a lot that’s disappeared in Lincolnshire was actually going to one of the local ports, Boston or King’s Lynn, and being smuggled out for smelting and they were avoiding the UK scrap metal dealers.”
Church officials were left with a £25,000 bill at St Margaret’s, Quadring, when most of the lead was stripped away a little over two years ago and there’s been a £10,000 bill for replacing lead stolen from the porch at St Peter and St Paul, Gosberton.
Mr Walters said there have been other raids – one as recent as a month ago when a church neighbour at Gosberton alerted police, who were on the spot really quickly, and the men who were on the roof ran away.
All scrap metal dealers in South Holland must apply to the district council for a licence by Tuesday in order to continue legally trading.
The legislation includes scrap dealers who call door-to-door.
Mr Walters said: “It’s a very welcome step. I think it has been a loophole in our legal system for metal thefts and it has gone on for so long.”
He said scrap dealers used to be able to pay people in cash, but they can no longer do that which means transactions will be easier to trace.
Mr Walters says churches have lost “hundreds of millions” over the last three or four years and they were being hit twice because insurers were capping pay-outs.
Railways are also being hit and it’s been revealed by one train operator that a £50 copper cable theft triggered an £80,000 repair bill, 17 hours of hold-ups for thousands of passengers and delayed 108 trains.
Portfolio holder Malcolm Chandler described the new registration system as an “important piece of legislation designed to combat what had become a growing and dangerous crime”.
He continued: “The new regulations will assist dealers to avoid being unwittingly involved with crime as they will be required to record the details of anyone they are dealing with and those records will be available to the authorities should it be necessary.
“South Holland’s licensing team will be working closely with all dealers who apply for a licence to ensure a smooth transition.”
n Scrap metal dealers must display their licences to the public when trading.