A church home to the Accrington Pals Chapel is facing a £12,000 repair bill after being targeted NINE times by lead thieves in the past three months.
St John’s Church reopened last year after an extensive three-and-a-half year campaign by the Observer to restore the church.
It closed in April 2007 due to electrical problems and the £90,000 restoration included extensive roof repairs, re-wiring, painting and replacing vandalised stain glass windows.
However one year on the church faces another substantial bill after a spate of lead thefts since August.
Church warden Frank Whitehead said: "It’s a massive problem and it’s the worst that I have experienced for 20 years at the church.
"All of the plans we have to develop the church for the community have to take a back seat.
"We will do all we can to raise the money whilst continuing to run the church on limited funds but it is a very serious situation.
"If the lead continues to go, the water will go into the fabric of the building and before you know it we will have dry rot.
"The insurance companies will only pay out so much money with the remainder having to be found by the church. The church is a listed building and it has been agreed that we will now be replacing the stolen lead with alternative materials.
"We are also looking to install CCTV cameras."
The Rev John Binks said the repair bill would impact on their work in the community.
He said: "It’s stopping us from getting on with our development plans and meeting the needs of the community.
"Everything has been put on hold until we can deal with this problem. The annoying thing is that the people who steal it will get very little for it." The shocking figure comes after it was revealed metal worth over £1m was stolen across Lancashire in the first half of this year – up by 89 per cent on the same period as last year.
Last week the Observer reported break-ins at five of the borough’s electricity substations with thieves cutting through high voltage cables to steal more than £1,000 worth of metal cable.
Police believe the increase in metal thefts in recent months is a sign of desperation in harsh economic times.
Police launched a nationwide ‘day of action’ last week to target lead thieves with suspected offenders in Hyndburn each receiving warning letters and a visit from officers.
During the crackdown, named Operation Starling, officers carried out roadside stop checks of vehicles in Accrington and Great Harwood.
PC Roger Brindle, of Accrington Police Station, said: "Metal theft is a constant nuisance and we want to do everything we can to stop it taking place.
"We visited a lot of people that we thought were involved in theft of metal and we have had very few thefts since."