VANDALS have broken in to an historic theatre building through a wall.

Bosses at Grade II-listed Burnley Empire, which is undergoing restoration, spoke of their disappointment about the damage done to a wall on the riverside.

Burnley Empire Theatre Trust chairman Sophie Gibson said: ‘This discovery came as a great disappointment whilst we’ve all been working around the clock to secure funding for essential priority works, like stabilising the roof and the asbestos removal as a matter of urgency to enable proper public access.

“It takes months of preparation and work to secure funding and sadly we’ve had to spend funds that were earmarked for that all-important stabilisation and public access from previous donations.

“We understand that people want to look inside but it’s not safe which is why we made the decision to postpone our heritage open days event last year, after vandalism caused wide distribution of incredibly dangerous asbestos.

“Instead of taking two steps forward with the removal progress, it feels like one step back in the grand scheme of things.

“Asbestos and the current condition of the building is no joke. People’s health and safety is much more valuable than a look inside the building during its current condition.”

Trust director Steve Hogg, a stonemason, took careful consideration of the standards required and materials needed to ensure the essential repair works were carried out to the 125-year-old building.

Theatres Trust architecture adviser, Claire Appleby, said:“Not only are people putting their own lives at risk but are also, unwittingly, diverting both attention and funding away from the key task in hand – that of restoring and reopening the building..

“Burnley Empire Trust has acted swiftly in response, carrying out necessary repair works.”

Leader of Burnley Council Charlie Briggs said: “It is concerning that the problem is they have asbestos in the building so by breaking in they are facing health risks of getting the dust coming down on them.”

“Why would anybody want to break in there.”