LEAD thefts at town centre businesses have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage after a part of a ceiling collapsed following flooding.

Boots Opticians has been forced to cancel a number of appointments and workers have been unable to use staff room facilities as a result of the extensive damage to their building on Darlington’s High Row.

The buildings are believed to have been initially targeted at the beginning of April with Boots Opticians, Virgin Money, Boots Chemist , Natwest and Poundland all affected by the theft.

Michael McGrath, optometrist and branch manager, said the extent of the damage had caused a massive impact on business after the building was targeted again late last month over the Easter holiday period and heavy rain severely damaged the third floor.

He said: “We have had to close all of the top floor due to the damage caused by the rain pouring in through the ceiling. The damage it has caused is quite significant and we are not currently allowed on the third floor for safety reasons.

“This has had a massive impact on our customers as we have had to cancel a number of appointments which are usually carried out upstairs in the building.

“It has also affected the staff as they no longer have anywhere to go on their breaks because they are not allowed into the staffroom.

“The first damage was caused over the Easter holidays but before we could get the lead replaced, the thieves had come back and stolen even more lead from the buildings. As a result of the thefts, all the companies affected are going to have to have work carried out on the their roof to ensure the building is watertight – which is why scaffolding will have to go up along High Row.

"The damage is going to cost thousands of pounds to put right."

A Durham Police spokesman confirmed that the force was investigating the theft of the lead from the properties in Darlington town centre.

He said: “We were called to a report of lead being stolen from the roofs of buildings on High Row in Darlington on April 2, we were then contacted again on April 25 following another report of the theft of lead from roofs from the rear of the stores.

"Our officers carried out investigations in the area, involving looking at CCTV footage from several positions and speaking to other businesses in the area.

"There are a number of ways to gain access to the site and we would urge anyone who knows anything about the thefts to contact police.

"We are looking to work with others in an attempt to solve this crime, so if you are aware of any information or you are a scrap business that has been offered lead to buy – please get in touch."

Anyone with information can call Durham Police on 101 or alternatively via Crimestoppers at


or on 0800-55-111.