Super grease behind drop in Birmingham manhole cover thefts

METAL thieves look to have met their match after the launch of a unique DNA-style grease marker sparked a 75 per cent drop in manhole covers thefts in Birmingham.

The city council and Amey, which holds the local authority’s road maintenance contract, acted in March having seen 900 grates go missing in just six months.
stop manhole theft
The thefts had left the council taxpayer with a £250,000 bill.

But there has been a dramatic fall in the number of gratings taken thanks to a special type of grease, called RedWeb.

It leaves an indelible mark visible only under ultraviolet light on the cover itself and anyone who touches it.

In the three months before the launch of the RedWeb grease, 32 gully grates were taken from roads in five wards in the north of the city.

That fell to just eight in the same area in the three months since the introduction of the product

Sergeant Phil Butler, from West Midlands Police’s Operation Steel which targets metal theft, said: “We have been delighted to see a reduction in reported metal theft.

“Improved marking of target materials reduces crime as it’s far easier for police to prove theft and handling beyond a reasonable doubt.’’

Amey Business director John Sunderland said: “We are thrilled that we have had such an instant result with the new product that we are using to deter thieves and this is just the beginning.

“Theft of metal, such as gully covers, from the roads is not a victimless crime as open gully covers are extremely dangerous.”

Amey has also trialed composite recycled plastic covers with no resale value as replacements for the stolen metal covers.

The plastic covers can also be sealed in to prevent further vandalism or theft.

Coun James McKay, cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, said: “This is a great result for partnership working and sends a stark message to thieves.

“We will simply not tolerate them stealing metal from our roads and putting people’s lives at risk.”

Flood risk to millions in UK is growing

MILLIONS of property owners face an increased risk from flooding because of climate change and urban sprawl, experts have warned.

 New research shows up to two million people in the UK – including almost 130,000 Scots – are at risk of flooding because they live in built-up areas where there is limited drainage and less grass and woodland to soak up rainfall.

The research, carried out at Dundee University and to be presented to the Royal Geographical Society this week, predicts that unless planners take climate change into account, the threat could rise by around 50 per cent to affect 3.2 million by 2050.

The flood risk warnings have emerged following Met Office confirmation that April to June 2012 has been the wettest on record. Last week, parts of England were over-run by flash floods, and rail services to Scotland cut off after landslips on both the east and west coast mainlines. Yesterday, services between Edinburgh and London were still being restricted but rail chiefs said the timetable should be back to normal today.

The Dundee research says climate change is leading to greater rainfall, while a growing population and, in particular, more people moving to cities is triggering greater urbanisation.

Dr Alastair Geddes, of Dundee University, said: “We will see more people exposed by living in areas of risk because of strong population growth.

“There are two main trends – population growth and climate change. However, we can’t take account of how planners will work to change drainage systems.

“It’s important to take action on that. That’s what we hope will come out of this work.”

The researchers initially looked at 44 cities across the UK, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, and then examined three more closely.

In Glasgow, one of the three, they found that 63,927 people are currently at risk of flooding from heavy rainfall – 5.5 per cent.

Across Scotland 2.6 per cent of the urban population was found to be at risk, while across the UK as a whole it was 3.3 per cent.

Rats forced into homes as sewers fill up

RATS are being forced above ground into homes and restaurants as city sewers fill up with rainwater.

Pest controllers in Brighton and Hove have reported an increase in calls about the rodents over the last few months, which have been some of the wettest on record.

Experts say the lack of a harsh winter in recent years had helped the rodent population to soar.

And the heavy downpours that have led to flooding in recent months have sent rats scurrying for higher ground – and into people’s homes.

One local Pest Control contractor  said he was receiving around five calls a week about rats, almost twice as many as last year.

He said: “The rain hasn’t dampened the rodent’s spirits. They’re thriving.

“The fact that we have had no harsh winters recently is a contributing factor as there is no death rate in these rats and they can reproduce quickly and  recent heavy rainfall had filled sewers up, pushing the rats out of drains and into buildings in search of food.

He said: “Compared to last year I’ve seen an increase in the amount of Rodenticide I have had to buy. I have been through one 20kg sack in a month and that is a lot for me.

A Brighton and Hove council spokeswoman said: “We have not seen a significant rise in requests for treatment this year.

“We do not believe the recent humid weather has lead to an increase of rat sightings, however, extreme wet weather conditions can lead to overflow from storm drains, causing rats to be displaced, but this is quite unusual.“