THE Peak District National Park Authority has joined a national drive to tackle heritage crime - targeting not only thieves and vandals who damage precious ancient monuments, but property owners who harm their own listed buildings.
The Peak District is the first national park authority in the country to sign the Heritage Crime Enforcement memorandum, a pledge to work jointly with English Heritage, the police and Crown Prosecution Service to prevent, investigate, prosecute and advise on heritage crime.
The authority has also joined the 140-strong Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage, a network launched by English Heritage to spread anti-crime information to official bodies, heritage organisations such as the National Trust, Church of England and local community groups.
The Peak District has a rich inheritance of historic structures and archaeological remains, with more than 2,900 listed buildings.
Its churches in particular have been targeted by metal thieves, with lead stolen from historic churches in Hartington, Hathersage, Castleton, Youlgreave and Chelmorton.
Irresponsible property owners are also being targeted – the authority recently prosecuted a householder who put uPVC windows in his listed farmhouse despite several warnings. He was fined £2,600 and ordered to pay £800 costs.
Stone artefacts are often stolen for garden ornaments – the capstone of Hope Cross, an 18th-century guidepost between Edale and Hope, disappeared early this year, but was found dumped in a lay-by after publicity. Other heritage crimes include unauthorised metal detecting and trail-bike riders scrambling over archaeological remains.