Thieves and vandals thinking of targeting Swindon’s heritage have been issued a ‘hands off’ warning by Swindon Borough Council and English Heritage.
For the local authority are the first in the South West to sign up to an initiative designed to protect the borough’s heritage.
The Heritage Crime Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which has been supported by a number of public bodies, councils and community safety partnerships, pledges to work with English Heritage, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to prevent, investigate, prosecute and advise on heritage crime.
The MoU forms a key part of English Heritage’s Heritage Crime Programme and Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage (ARCH), which works with local partnerships to identify heritage assets in their area that may be at risk of irreversible damage from crime and anti-social behaviour and to report any suspicious incidents to their Neighbourhood Policing Teams.
The ARCH also spreads anti-crime information to official bodies, heritage organisations such as the National Trust and local faith and community groups.
The council will have a key role in investigating and taking any subsequent enforcement action if complaints are made about unauthorised work to listed buildings.
The MoU was signed by Cllr David Renard, Swindon Borough Council Leader at the Swindon Heritage Board meeting on Tuesday 17 September.
Cllr Renard, who is also chairman of Swindon Heritage Board, said: “We want to send out a clear message to potential vandals and thieves that heritage crime will not be tolerated in Swindon.
“The Memorandum of Understanding will really strengthen our hand in dealing with this crime whether it be the theft of lead from a church roof or mindless graffiti on the wall of one of our heritage assets.
“We are extremely proud of our heritage in Swindon and this initiative is a firm commitment of our intention to preserve it.”
Andrew Vines, Planning and Conservation Director for English Heritage in the South West, said: “We are delighted that Swindon Borough Council has joined ARCH and become a signatory to the enforcement memorandum of understanding.
“The Heritage Crime Programme has already shown that it can bring together different organisations within communities to establish local networks, and to deliver action at a local level.
"People in Swindon have a real passion for the town’s cultural heritage and want to help protect this legacy for future generations.”
For more details, go to: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/advice/advice-by-topic/heritage-crime/arch/