Neighbours of schools asked to watch out for lead thieves

Freuchie Primary was one of the schools to have lead stripped from its roof. (Photo: George McLuskie)
Freuchie Primary was one of the schools to have lead stripped from its roof. (Photo: George McLuskie)

Neighbours of primary schools in north east Fife are being asked to look out for any strange activity following a series of thefts.

This month alone, Strathmiglo, Freuchie and Kettle primaries have all had lead stripped from their roofs, resulting in leaks and water damage to buildings.

Lead has also stolen from a church in Pittenweem, and copper wire was even taken from temporary traffic lights near Stratheden Hospital in Cupar.

Increasing demand for metals has caused the price to rise significantly in recent years, making any scrap metal, even small quantities, attractive to thieves.

Rural schools in quiet areas can be particularly vulnerable, so Fife Council and the police are hoping communities will be vigilant and report any suspect vans or lorries, or people acting suspiciously, at unusual hours of the day and night.

Louise Playford, the Council’s service manager (school estates), said: “We are still assessing the damage as a result of these thefts. However, every pound we have to spend on the result of crime like this is a pound that we could have spent on improving our children’s education, whether new resources or upgrading of facilities.

“It’s extremely disappointing that these people are deliberately targeting schools and I’d urge anyone with any information to contact the police.”

The theft of lead has become such a problem that Historic Scotland has produced specific guidance on protecting traditional buildings.

It says the theft of lead and other metals from buildings, particularly those of architectural or historic significance, is causing serious problems for building owners.

Historic Scotland states: “The financial cost of the theft is not limited to the cost of replacing the metal alone.

“Damage to stonework and other building elements is a common complication, and water ingress caused by the loss of the roof covering can cause huge damage to the building fabric and significant harm to interior finishes and furnishings.”

It backs promoting the protection of buildings as community issues, and says encouraging local people to look out for anything unusual and can help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

Anybody with information about the thefts from the schools should call the police on 101.