A recent surge in stone thefts from historic dry walls, homes, schools, farms and churches has led to the matter being debated in the Houses of Parliament.
Jason McCartney, Tory MP for Colne Valley in West Yorkshire, warned that his constituency’s heritage was being “systematically dismantled” as a result of the problem. During the parliamentary debate he said he was receiving weekly reports of stone thefts from West Yorkshire Police.
Many reported thefts are taking place in broad daylight with thieves posing as workmen in high-visibility jackets.
The problem is not limited to rural locations, with Leeds County Council forced to replace £50,000 worth of York stone stolen from pavements across the city – an increase of more than 50% on the previous year.
Mr McCartney went on to highlight a West Yorkshire Police project involving the use of SmartWater to forensically mark stonework believed to be at risk of theft. He said: “I would like to praise West Yorkshire Police for their action so far in tackling the epidemic of stone thefts. They have launched a campaign using SmartWater – a uniquely-coded forensic liquid that shows up under an ultraviolet lamp. It means that stone merchants or police can easily identify whether stone is stolen, and if so, it can be traced back to its original location.”