BOSSES at a former wartime factory have installed CCTV cameras after “despicable” thieves stole historic gates for scrap.
Standard Life moved to improve security following the theft of one half of the 1931 gates at Banbury’s Alcan factory.
The Southam Road factory, which closed in 2007, was a major producer of metal for planes, employing 3,000 people.
During the Second World War, it helped build parts for Spitfires.
Police believe thieves stole one gate and removed parts from the other for scrap. They were part of the memorial garden at the site – which is being redeveloped for industrial units – in memory of staff killed in the Second World War.
The theft was discovered last Wednesday.
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry, who visited on Saturday, said Standard Life had “lamentably failed” to protect the site. He also criticised the state of the garden, saying the pool was strewn with rubbish. He said: “This garden of remembrance has been tended to and looked after by generations of Alcan staff as a tribute and testimony to those Alcan employees who lost their life in the Second World War.
“This is not just a memorial to those who gave their life in the war, but it is an important part of Banbury history.”
Banbury Town Council leader Kieron Mallon branded the theft “despicable”. The former Alcan worker said: “If the gates have been destroyed and these people are caught then there is no sentence that is strong enough.”
Banbury Civic Society chairman Rob Kinchin-Smith said the group had previously raised concerns about the security of the gates.
He said: “Sadly, it seems most likely that the gates are now probably halfway to China.”
But a Standard Life spokesman said: “The site has always been surrounded by a secure perimeter fence. This remains in place and CCTV cameras have also now been added to the security measures.”
Its head of UK development James Stevens said the firm was “appalled” by the attacks.
He said: “We fully appreciate the importance of the gates and the memorial to the people of Banbury and we very much hope the police can bring the perpetrators of both crimes to justice.
“We are working with our insurers to ensure the gates are replaced and damage to the garden repaired.
“In addition we will be reviewing the security measures we have in place in light of the recent incidents and will discuss any proposed changes with the local council in due course.”
Pc Daniel Hopkins said: “The gates are unique and of historic interest to the victim and they have been cut up on the floor and parts removed for scrap.”
Anyone with details should call Pc Hopkins on 101 or contact the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555111.
The rising price of scrap metal has fuelled a crime spree, particularly of lead roofs.
Copper thieves have also stolen phone cables.
As part of Operation Tornado, police are working with scrap metal dealers. People are required to provide proof of their identity when trying to sell scrap metal to dealers.
Churches are also now marking roofing so any stolen material can be traced.