OFFICIALS at a derelict theatre are appealing for witnesses after one of the worst cases of vandalism on their site.

Burnley Empire Trust are counting the cost of the damage as vandals got onto their site on St James Street.

The iconic venue has been named as part of the Councils High Street upgrade and redevelopment of St James Street through the recently announced town centre HAZ project.

Now, just days after launching their latest fundraising appeal to help towards stabilising the building and creating public access the Trust are left with the mess of recent criminal damage.

Trust Director, Shaun McCree said: “We are saddened to have to report that there has been a break-in at the Burnley Empire and that serious damage has been carried out inside.

"We don’t believe that this was the work of over-enthusiastic urbex explorers but a deliberate and coordinated attempt to cause as much criminal damage as possible to the interior and interfere with our ongoing restoration, just days after we launched our fundraising appeal.

Theatres Trust, Architecture Adviser, Claire Appleby said: “It’s devastating to hear of a further break-in at the Empire, a building on our Theatres at Risk Register, particularly after the fantastic amount of support shown by the public around Burnley Empire Trust (BET)’s current fundraising campaign.

"This latest break-in, unlike previous times, appears to be a wanton act of vandalism - a wilful and determined attack on the theatre with the sole purpose of causing damage.

"We continue to stress that not only are people who enter the Empire putting their own lives at risk but that damage caused to a listed building by an unauthorised person, such as in this instance, is classed as criminal damage.

"The police have been informed and the council have also been made aware of the situation. "Burnley Empire Theatre continue to work tirelessly towards their goal to restore and reopen the Empire, and the group has received a flood of messages of support from the local community. It is therefore all the more disappointing and deeply saddening to see the selfish acts of a minority hinder the positive progress made on this project.”