Copper thieves raid Portsmouth defence site

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A FORMER navy firing range and important radar site has become a magnet for scrap metal thieves.

Fraser Battery, in Eastney, has become the latest target for thieves looking to sell on copper, lead and other metals for quick cash.

In one raid, thieves removed large amounts of copper water pipes, causing one of the buildings on the former Ministry of Defence site to flood.

Thieves have managed to get on to the derelict site by cutting a large hole through the fencing that backs on the nearby beach, a popular spot for naturists.

Fraser Battery is owned by QinetiQ, a private firm which inherited the land from the MoD.

There were plans to redevelop the site and build 131 apartments, but those plans have now been withdrawn.

Hampshire Police said there was an ‘ongoing problem’ of the site being targeted by crooks.

It comes after a string of scrap metal thefts over the last year.

Criminals stooped to new lows by targeting a war memorial in Kingston Cemetery and even the walking frame of disabled six-year-old Aston Muff in Portsmouth.

Figures obtained by The News from Portsmouth City Council show the cost to the taxpayer since 2009 has been almost £200,000.

Eastney councillor Cheryl Buggy condemned the attacks at Fraser Battery.

She said: ‘We are trying to understand the mentality of these thieves and fail to understand.

‘They seem to be a different species to the rest of us.

‘When it comes to stealing the memorial plaques and things like that, it just seems they have no moral compass.

‘I know times are hard for a lot of people, but stealing a child’s bike, stealing memorial plaques and going into an old building is appalling.

‘It’s difficult to protect everything all the time.’

Eastney councillor Luke Stubbs added: ‘There should be better security.’

The Langstone Harbour Board has also noted concerns about the site being vandalised and raided.

Officials at Fort Cumberland, which is adjacent to Fraser Battery and is now a centre for archaeology, have been warned of the problem.

Dave Webb, manager of Fort Cumberland, said: ‘English Heritage, which owns Fort Cumberland is aware of the situation.

‘We have our own security guards on the site.

‘We have had no incursions of the fence on our site.’

No-one from QinetiQ was available for comment.