Yorkshire Churches are facing multi-million pound repair bills as thieves increasingly target their roofing for lead and other materials. The scale of the problem is so widespread that church leaders fear for the future of some places of worship.

Churches, many of which have been standing for centuries, are being picked clean of lead and other metals by thieves, causing damage to the roofs and leaving water to pour in and damage the interior of the historic buildings.

Church leaders have complained that the justice system does not appear to take church metal theft seriously and want tighter laws to clamp down on rogue scrap yards who pay cash without questions.

An online petition to the Home Office calling for a ban on cash-in-hand transactions at scrap metal merchants has attracted nearly 10,000 signatures. Payment by cheque or into a bank account would create an audit trail, deter thieves and help track down lawbreakers.

In many parts of Yorkshire, churches have signed up to Worship Watch, which encourages neighbours to report suspicious activity to police.