COUNCILLORS in South Tyneside are endorsing new rules on the sale of scrap metal.
Changes have been rubber-stamped intended to make it more difficult for criminals to trade in stolen metal.
Key to the reforms is the closure of a loophole allowing itinerant traders to continue to pay cash for scrap metal.
South Tyneside Council will also now become responsible for issuing licences to trade in scrap metal, with annual fees ranging from £302 for each new application site to £142 for a scrap metal collector.
Members of the council’s licensing and regulatory committee agreed the changes on Friday.
Coun Arthur Meeks, the committee’s chairman, said: “We wanted to give the police additional powers over this and did agree to set the charges, which are broadly in line with those in Sunderland and Newcastle.
“We accept that there are a lot of genuine people trading in scrap metal, but these charges will deter the unscrupulous minority.
“The theft of scrap metal is costing the country millions of pounds. It’s not just the value of the metal stolen – it’s the damage it causes.
“There was one church where £300 or £400 of metal was stolen, but it resulted in an ingress of water which led to a £15,000 repair bill.
“Then there’s the theft on the Metro which causes delays.
“The 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act is a most welcome piece of legislation.”
The borough is home to more than 20 operators affected by the introduction of the new legislation.
Last year, there were 270 metal thefts in South Tyneside – about 25 a month.
Nationally, metal theft costs as much as £260m a year, according to recent estimates.
It can result in the disruption to energy supplies, transport and telecommunications, as well as the theft of manhole covers and the desecration of war memorials.
Earlier this year, hundreds of pounds worth of scrap was stolen in a raid at Boldon Colliery when two bags of metal were removed from the yard at the Balfour Beatty site in Brooklands Way.