Metal theft from churches hit a record high last year as scrapyards warned that pilot regulation threatens to put them out of business and push illegal activity elsewhere.
The church insurer Ecclesiastical has reported claims for metal theft exceeded 2,500 in 2011. Metal-theft figures are not recorded separately by police, but estimates placed the number of offences between 80,000 and 100,000 in 2010-11, costing the economy about £1bn.
A pilot scheme called Operation Tornado begins tomorrow in Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland, where sellers of metal must present identification supported by a recent utility bill.
Robert Allott, 41, a co-owner of Durham Metals in Gilesgate, said he expected to "lose 40 per cent" of his business. "How is my yard supposed to compete when people can just sell their metal to a place without any hassle just a few miles down the road?" he asked.