Thieves raid Harpenden voluntary organisation’s HQ

Commitee member Oliver Randell, Fundraiser Susanna Geoghegan, Volunteer Bernie Hornett and HQ Manage

Commitee member Oliver Randell, Fundraiser Susanna Geoghegan, Volunteer Bernie Hornett and HQ Manager Gordon Steadman at the Batford Springs Volunteer HQ which was broken into and had valuable items stolen - Credit: Archant

Thieves have struck at the headquarters of a voluntary organisation in Harpenden, possibly taking advantage of the site remaining empty for several weeks after a tree crashed onto its roof.

St Albans district council and Batford Springs Volunteers (BSV) have been left counting the cost after a storm before Christmas brought down a 23-metre willow onto the roof of a building near the nature reserve on Lower Luton Road.

After the tree was cleared last Tuesday (14) and volunteers were allowed to re-enter their headquarters, they were stunned to discover that two new industrial Stihl strimmers and waders had been stolen.

The charity leases its headquarters from the council while the Batford Springs nature reserve belongs to Harpenden town council and is tended by volunteers.

BSV committee member Oliver Randell said after the tree was cleared, volunteers discovered that the tool store, where the strimmers had originally been stored, had been broken into.

He said: “I assume [the thieves] were looking for the strimmers but because there was water coming through the store roof after the tree came down, we had moved them into the headquarters.

“So they smashed the reinforced glass in the kitchen window and someone has climbed in and taken the strimmers.

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“Volunteers run the group, and the strimmers were bought with donated money. The headquarters have been there for several decades and I have no prior knowledge of a theft taking place there.

“They took advantage of the fallen tree.”

Mr Randell added: “It is highly inconvenient and annoying. Stealing from volunteers is not a good idea. We can’t just go out and buy more strimmers and waders as money in the bank is earmarked for projects.”

Simon Rowberry, the district council’s head of building control, said it cost £4,200 to clear the tree which fell on December 23.

He explained that it was a “complex” removal as back branches had to initially be cut so they did not obstruct cars travelling along Lower Luton Road.

Mr Rowberry added: “We then had to arrange for the road to be closed for a crane to lift the remaining trunk off the building. It took two weeks for the crane to become available and to obtain permission to close the road.”

He said a loss adjuster from the council’s insurers would inspect the building and assess damage, but “as far as we are aware, the break-in was not connected to the damage caused by the tree”.

Herts Police are investigating the theft.