METAL thieves have stopped the flag flying for the Olympic Torch passing through Whitley Bay.
In recent weeks, vandals have targeted the flagpole on the top of the Spanish City Dome, meaning officials at North Tyneside Council will be unable to fly any flags as the Olympic Flame relay passes by tomorrow (Friday).
The criminals have tried to steal the flagpole – which is also the building’s lightening conductor – putting themselves and others a risk.
Council staff found the damage while visiting the building intending to raise the flag to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
And the flag pole was left unusable as the extent of the repairs needed cannot be carried out in time.
There has also been damage caused to a window and a metal security gate has been stolen from the site, which is currently earmarked for development by Robertson.
The council has reported the incidents to Northumbria Police and CCTV from the local area is currently being checked to track the culprits.
Elected Mayor Linda Arkley said: “It is tremendously disappointing that for these two big occasions we are unable to fly the flag from the top of the Dome.
“The Olympic Torch Relay is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to showcase North Tyneside to the rest of the world.
“We wanted to make sure that we put the flags out to welcome the runners carrying the torch – as these are all people who have made a tremendous contribution to their community in some way.
“It is sad that we can’t include the flag on top of the Spanish City Dome – but I’m sure that the thousands of people welcoming the torch to the borough will give an extremely enthusiastic welcome to the convoy and the torch.
“And we will be flying the flag from the top of Wallsend Town Hall.”
Jim Gray, Neighbourhood Inspector for Whitley Bay, said: “It’s disappointing that the flag has been unable, and still won’t be able, to be flown at such proud occasions for the town, its residents, workers and visitors.
“I would urge people to report incidents of metal thefts to us and continue to provide us with information on any suspicious activity so that we can take action.
“Our officers also regularly patrol areas where metal thefts have been carried out and will stop and search any suspicious people or vehicles.”
People can contact police on 101, extension 69191 or the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.