Metal thieves have moved out to the countryside – to plunder scores of drainage covers from a leafy road on the outskirts of Birmingham.
Drivers using picturesque Ox Leys Road, on the fringes of Sutton Coldfield, were surprised to see a huge line of cones covering the open drains.
Staff from city council contractor Amey replaced the stolen covers with plastic subsitutes marked “non metallic” in a bid to stop the crooks returning.
Stunned motorist Alison Williams, 38, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the cones on either side of the road. They stretched as far as I could see.
“I could see they had been placed over open drainage holes where the grates had been stolen.
“It could have been dangerous. Motorists race along this road and I dread to think what would have happened if they had hit one of these open holes.”
The covers – worth about £300 each – were stolen in the dead of night as bandits plundered a half-mile stretch of the road, which is near the Belfry golf and hotel complex.
Road cones revealed the full extent of the crime spree as council chiefs ordered them placed over open drains to protect motorists.
Last week it was reported that more than 900 manhole covers had been stolen from Birmingham streets in just six months.
At the peak of the thefts, 124 manhole covers disappeared in just two weeks last summer.
Sutton Coldfield was identified as one of the worst hit areas for the crime, along with Hodge Hill, Erdington, and Ladywood.
A council spokesman said: “Whenever we receive information about damaged or stolen manhole covers our first priority is to make a temporary repair or barrier off the manhole in order to make the road safe for all users.
“Replacement covers will then be fitted as soon as practically possible.
"We continue to work with Amey, to explore options for preventing metal theft being an issue on the highways, including exploring alternative materials and designs.”