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In the last year alone there have been 49 reported lead thefts from churches across the county – eight of these churches having been targeted previously.
And to tackle the issue PCC Lorne Green has joined with the Bishop of Norwich, Norfolk Churches Trust, Allchurches Trust and the Round Tower Churches Society to raise vital cash to install alarms at vulnerable churches.
Under the ‘Raise the Alarm’ initiative the partnership has contributed over £250, 000 to the campaign but are calling on the public to help protect their shared heritage by also donating to the cause.
“My blood boils whenever I hear a church has been targeted. That is why I said enough is enough and started the ball rolling on this working partnership, committing a substantial amount of ‘seed money’ to get it underway,” said Lorne who has himself committed £100,000.
“These are such senseless crimes against our shared heritage. Churches are a place of worship and historic and cultural gems; they are often the beating heart of our communities, serving as community hubs.
“We are only custodians of these wonderful buildings, which belong not only to this area but the world. We are taking action to stop the scourge of lead thefts and this cowardly and mindless desecration of our local heritage.
“Our shared heritage matters and together we can stop these mindless thefts. I have given £100,000 which, along with the £50,000 from the Diocese of Norwich and other significant contributions, will make sure the most vulnerable churches in our county are alarmed – and this is a great start.
“However, I would like to see many more churches alarmed and protected. I am therefore delighted to announce the launch of the Raise The Alarm campaign.
“The campaign aims to raise thousands of pounds to protect as many churches and as possible. If we can, together, raise another £300,000 we could ensure a further 150 churches have their roofs alarmed and protected, keeping these vital community assets open for all.”
Without an alarm approved by insurers, many church buildings are not fully insured and parishes do not receive sufficient insurance to cover repairs if there is any damage or theft.
Such desecration disrupts community activities such as parent and children groups, foodbank distribution and dementia cafes. They can also affect milestone events including weddings and baptisms.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said: “The landscape of Norfolk would be spiritually flattened if we lost our wealth of medieval churches. They are better cared for than ever thanks to volunteers who worship in them regularly, raise money for the fabric and cherish these buildings.
“But they are under threat from lead thieves who damage the fabric, leave havoc in their wake and cause those who care so well for our churches to feel dejected and dispirited.
“The Raise the Alarm scheme is an imaginative and effective way of combating these thieves and giving heart to those who care for our churches so well. That’s why I’m glad to contribute to the scheme using trust funds available to me. I’m grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner and the other contributors for their imagination and support.”
As well as the £100,000 contributed by the PCC £50,000 has been pledged from the Diocese of Norwich, £50,000 from the Norfolk Churches Trust, £50,000 from the Allchurches Trust and £2,500 from the Round Tower Churches Society.
If you are not able to contribute, you can still help. If you see or hear anything suspicious around a church you can report it to the police by calling 101 – if you see a crime in progress call 999.