YOBS have stolen £3,000 worth of lead from the roof of an East Lancashire church.

Thieves stole the lead from St Mary’s Church, in Kelbrook, and also attempted to steal copper wiring from a lightning conductor, but were unsuccessful.

It is the latest in a series of raids on churches in East Lancashire.

Church-goers are now being forced to continue using the venue with a hole in the roof until repairs can be paid for.

Bosses at the church said insurance will cover the cost of replacing the damaged areas of roof, but said there parishoners are experiencing ‘discomfort and unpleasentness’ because of the leak.

The Rev Hugh Fielden said: “You wonder what it’s all about. It’s about the price of metal going up.

“People are either greedy or strapped for cash because of credit crunch.”

He said that he was worried he hadn’t seen the end of damage: “We’re just going to battle on.

“The sad thing is, we’re waiting for the rest of it to go. It’s inevitable. We don’t have reserves. It does hurt.”

The number of churches in East Lancashire resorting to claiming on their insurance for metal thefts is on the increase.

Last year, the Lancashire Telegraph revealed that thieves have cost churches across the area more than £310,000 in the past four years.

Theft of metal has risen by 150 per cent in the past two years nationally after demand from emerging countries such as China and India caused prices to rocket.

There have been incidents at churches across the area while train lines, empty homes and even copper wiring from the Royal Blackburn Hospital have been stolen by scrap thieves.

The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev John Goddard, said the lead thefts were a “tremendous concern” in the area.

He said: “These people in their selfishness and their criminality show no respect for these sacred buildings and by doing so cause great harm to whole communities.

“Lead thefts cause problems not just to the roofs, but also when water gets in there can be huge costs associated with putting things right.”