ALLOTMENT gardeners are calling for better security following a spate of burglaries at their plots.

At least four gardens at Shield Row Allotment, near Stanley, County Durham, were targeted recently with hundreds of pounds worth of equipment stolen.

Intruders have forced their way in and helped themselves to tools and electrical equipment from sheds.

Alan and Angela Kirkbride, have worked at the site for over 40 years, and said the latest break-in is the third time they have been burgled in as many years.

Mr Kirkbride, 69, of Pearson Street, said: “When I came in there was a scene of devastation.

“The door had been smashed and they had broken the padlocks off with a hammer.

“It is unbelievable the damage they have caused. It is very disheartening.”

Shield Row Allotment Association is now calling on Durham County Council to put up a strong perimeter fence to protect the allotments, which have visits from schoolchildren to help them learn about growing flowers and vegetables.

Chairman Richy Stacey said: “If we had better boundary fencing it would help but we have not got the money to do it. “We would also like to see more patrols from the police.”

Sergeant Dave Clarke, of Stanley Police, said there had also been a spate of break-ins at allotments in South Moor in recent weeks.

He said people were visiting from outside the area to find property to sell at car boots sales or through online selling sites.

Sgt Clarke said: “It is very distressing for allotment holders because this is somewhere people go for a bit of peace and tranquillity.

“To have that relaxing time interrupted like this must be awful for them.

“We would ask people speak to their PCSOs and beat officers and get some advice about how to make it harder for people to break-in.

“People come from miles and miles away and scour the area to do these crimes, so we also ask people to keep an eye out for unfamiliar vehicles.”

Durham County Council owns 159 allotment sites across the county and manages 106 sites.

The authority has said the remaining 53 are managed by allotment associations, such as Shield Row Allotment Association, who are not charged any rent and receive all of the subs paid by members to reinvest into the site.

Ian Hoult, neighbourhood protection manager at Durham County Council, said: “We are very sorry to hear about the recent thefts from Shield Row Allotments.

“We will contact Shield Row Allotment Association, which manages the site, and other partners to look at ways we can work together to address this issue.”