A RIBBLE Valley community is fighting back after a spate of lead thefts from a 16th Century church.

St Helen’s Church in Waddington, which has a tower dating back to the 1500s, has been the target of three lead thefts in the past five years.

Since the last attack two years ago, the congregation and village residents have fought for the necessary permission to replace the missing lead with stainless steel.

The church has raised around £15,000 for the project through events and donations from villagers including the annual ‘Dedication Sunday’.

After securing permission for the work, after a consultation period involving the Church of England, Ribble Valley Borough Council and English Heritage, it is hoped that work can start soon.

The refectory roof was the target of the three raids and forced congregation members to step in and carry out emergency repair work to make it water tight.

Vicar John Brocklehurst said: “We have now come to the end of a two-year struggle to get the permission we needed for this project to go ahead.

“The generosity of Waddington residents and the hard work, dedication and determination of congregation members has meant that we have got to this point.

“This is a way of us fighting back and we are replacing the stolen lead with material that’s much less valuable.

“It was distressing whenever I came across a theft and it has a significant financial impact for a church our size.

“I hope that after we have replaced the lead that the thefts will stop for good.

“I once came across a theft shortly before I led a funeral of a 14-year-old which was awful.”