MANHOLE cover thefts are creating a danger across Darlington, according to a leading councillor.

Heather Scott, leader of the town’s Conservative group, is calling for metal manhole covers to be replaced with heavy duty plastic in an attempt to deter thieves.

Cllr Scott said a number of covers had recently been removed from sites across her ward, in the west end of Darlington.

Compounding the problem and increasing risk to others are the actions of people who are removing police cones placed around the uncovered manholes.

Cllr Scott said she believed the disappearing covers could be the work of metal thieves hoping to sell on the items to unscrupulous scrap dealers.

She said: “I’ve noticed a number of manhole covers have been stolen belonging to Northumbrian Water.

“Police are aware and cones have been put out to warn people there’s a gap but then people are picking them up and throwing them around.

“The suggestion I’m making is for the local authority to liaise with Northumbrian Water about getting the metal covers replaced with heavy duty plastic to deter metal theft.

“We don’t know if this is people in Darlington taking them or others taking them out of town to sell.

“We do know there are places who continue to receive these metals when they are not supposed to – there’s supposed to be a ban.”

Cllr Scott said the theft of the manhole covers presents a clear risk, adding: “If we can stop metal theft in any way then we have got to do it.”

A spokeswoman for Northumbrian Water said any missing manhole covers would be replaced on a like-for-like basis.

She said replacing metal covers with plastic was not always appropriate as covers have to withstand substantial pressure, especially on roads, where they would have to take the weight of HGVs and other large vehicles.

The spokeswoman added: “We are aware that some manhole covers have been taken recently in Darlington.

“We have taken immediate to action to replace them.

“Clearly the removal of manhole covers for any reason is a danger to the public.

“We would ask anyone who notices them being removed to report this to the police and to ourselves immediately on 0345 717 1100.”

Darlington Neighbourhood Inspector Chris Knox also urged people with any information about the thefts to contact police on non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

He added: “The theft of manhole covers is a danger to both pedestrians and road users alike.”