WOULD-be thieves targeted a Hampshire charity which had to launch a fundraising appeal after being hit by lockdown losses.

Police say two youths caused "significant damage" by trying to steal roof tiles from Hanger Farm Arts Centre in Aikman Lane, Totton, and a neighbouring tennis facility.

The arts centre, which is run by the Minstead Trust, has been unable to stage shows since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Daily Echo:

Totton councillor David Harrison said: "There are no words to adequately describe the thieves who damaged the roof at Hanger Farm.

"Minstead Trust and the town council have had the hardest of jobs dealing with the impact of coronavirus. Of course, criminals never consider the impact of what they are doing, just their own selfish needs."

In a statement issued shortly after the attempted theft the trust highlighted the importance of Hanger Farm, which hosts Totton Arts Festival.

It said: "The centre is a local hub, providing a café, accessible shows and a venue for local groups as well as weddings and conferences.

“Despite these difficult circumstances, the arts centre is proving its resilience by running a virtual stage online showcasing local performers.

"It's also pushing on with developing its plans to run cinema showings later in the year, when it is safe to do so.”

Daily Echo:

A police spokesman added: “Two youths were seen attempting to steal roof tiles and lead from the arts centre and the tennis centre, causing significant damage, but were disturbed by members of the public. The suspects subsequently made off on foot, empty-handed.”

The lockdown left the charity facing a cash crisis caused by the closure of public venues and the cancellation of fundraising events.

As reported in the Daily Echo, an emergency fundraising appeal was launched amid fears coronavirus could cost the trust a six-figure sum in lost income. The campaign netted more than £50,000, with one family donating £1,000.

The attempted theft at Hanger Farm has sparked outrage on social media.

One person posted: "As if things aren't already difficult enough. If they find the offenders I hope they get a long prison sentence."

Anyone with information can contact Hampshire police on 101, quoting crime reference number 44200239912.