Church wins court battle to stop lead thefts
ONE of Stoke-on-Trent's biggest churches has been allowed to remove the lead from its roof – after winning a court battle with English Heritage
Parishioners at Fenton's Christ Church applied to remove the remaining lead after being repeatedly targeted by thieves.
They asked for the entire roof of the Grade-II listed 1890 building to be covered with the synthetic membrane, Sarnafil.
But English Heritage argued the grey material should only remain for 10 years and took the matter to court.
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Now the Church of England's Consistory Court has ruled in the parishioners' favour.
Christ Church treasurer Dilys Jobber said: "It looks like the roof is going to be replaced quite soon.
"We had a delay because English Heritage objected to the material we needed for the roof. But it's not just that the thieves remove lead from the roof, it's the damage they do while they climb up there to steal it."
Gaps left by previous thefts on part of the roof are currently covered with steel.
Lead stolen from another part of the church roof has been replaced with felt.
Consistory Court judge Stephen Eyre, who is the Lichfield Diocese chancellor, has ruled that the new roof can remain in place for 25 years.
He said Christ Church serves a 'far from affluent' community, and that its lead roofs have been particularly vulnerable to thieves.
He told the court: "I appreciate that English Heritage's proposed time limit is put forward in a spirit of compromise.
"It is seeking to find a balance between the financial difficulties of the parish and the needs to use the most appropriate roofing material.
"If it is acceptable for the roof to be covered with Sarnafil for 10 years then it is acceptable for it to be covered with it for a period of 25 years.
"To place a time limit on the faculty would be to require roofing material which would be structurally sound for a further period of time to be removed and replaced.
"That would be wasteful and such waste cannot be justified in relation to a roof which is not readily visible."
Latest figures show there were 10 claims following metal thefts from churches in the Lichfield Diocese totalling £40,000 in 2012.
That compares with more than 100 claims costing £200,000 in 2011 and 60 claims totalling £110,000 in 2010.