Thieves find that Yorkshire's streets are paved with gold

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The Independent Online

A new spate of thefts in and around Yorkshire's towns and city centres has given new potency to the traditional phrase beloved of the flat-cap county that: "Where there's muck, there's brass."

Local authorities in Leeds, Huddersfield and Dewsbury have reported a surge in the theft of traditional paving slabs which adorn some of Britain's most perfectly preserved Victorian urban landscapes.

Leeds City Council has already conceded that it has run out of stocks of the yellow slabs, which are highly prized by gardeners. It will now begin using cheaper imported stone from China, Spain and Portugal to replace the plundered pavements.

In the past year, the council has received reports that some 300 slabs have gone missing. In neighbouring Kirklees, officials have had to deal with 22 thefts.

Kirklees Councillor David Sheard said: "The number of thefts has been increasing because of the economic downturn, which makes it harder for the council to find the funds to make the pavements safe again for local people to use."

It is believed thieves strike while posing as workmen carrying out emergency repairs, often committing the crime in the middle of the day under the noses of passers by.

A single, 70kg slab can fetch up to £60. Much of the stone is believed to be taken down to London, where it finds its way into private homes and their grounds.

Leeds has 283,000 square metres of flagstones, with a current market value of £21m.