A CHURCH has been placed on the 'at risk' register after being targeted by lead thieves three times in recent years.

The thefts have led to serious damage at St John the Baptist Church, Wellington, which now plans to install measures to deter further attacks.

Following the latest incident during a violent storm in February, the parochial church council has applied for planning permission to replace lead roofing with terne coated steel.

A statement accompanying the application to Somerset West and Taunton Council says: "The financial cost of replacing the lead due to the shortfall from the church insurers has placed a great deal of pressure and anxiety on the parish, especially as it was not possible to achieve the local fundraising target due to the church closure during lockdown."

The church is hoping to attract grant funding to carry out expensive repairs.

The statement adds: "Stonework has suffered damage and the water ingress from the recent storms continues to cause significant damage to the building fabric and significant harm to interior finishes and furnishings.

"The timber roof was saturated making it more susceptible to fungal and insect attack, leading to further degradation.

"A box profile lead downpipe guiding water from the north aisle gable hopper to the vestry roof was also removed during the incident as well as the gutter along the edge of the flat roof."

Following the latest lead theft, camera surveillance measures and roof alarms have been installed to monitor the roofs and alert churchwardens of trespassers.

"The surveillance and alert measures will be helpful to ward off potential thieves and for the police to identify and prosecute thieves, but they do not totally eliminate the risk of future theft which becomes a costly and disruptive event," says the application.

"The church has been placed on the at-risk register as a result of the most recent theft."

It is claimed in the submission to planners that the proposed roof covering is robust, will protect the fabric of the building, prevent future risk of lead thefts and is in keeping with the character of the church.

This year's lead theft from St John's was one of 11 Somerset churches hit between August last year and this March.