BRAZEN thieves have left hard-working volunteers from Shipston in Bloom outraged after flowers planted in the town centre were “surgically removed”.

The volunteers were left reeling when they discovered the flowers, and their bulbs and roots, had been taken less than 24 hours after they were planted.

About 30 plants have been stolen, including geraniums from raised beds in Telegraph Street and a white Petunias from displays in front of the West Street car park.

The town council spends about £6,000 each year to have 4,500 flowers planted around the town and help keep it looking its best.

It takes a band of dedicated volunteers thousands of hours to plant all the flowers, and Shipston in Bloom member Simon Welch said he hit the roof when he discovered what had happened.

The careful way the plants were removed have left him certain that someone has swiped them for their own displays.

“You get vandalism occasionally, I can accept that, but they were not pulled out and chucked on the ground, they were actually carefully removed,” he said.

“I don’t have any proof that somebody lifted them and planted them somewhere else but I can’t believe a vandal so neatly and carefully surgically removed the plants without damaging any other plants nearby.

“I think they are just lowlifes,”

he said. “It’s indefensible.

Volunteers give up hundreds of hours a year to plant them.

“If somebody was so impoverished they couldn’t afford a couple of plants to brighten up their garden and they had come and asked us I would have willingly given them to them but to do that after people have put all this effort in, it’s made angry.

“The amount of money you’re talking about istrivial, that’s the irritating thing.”

Mr Welch has now managed to re-plant all the flowers that were taken from the eye-catching displays. But he is still furious at what happened.

“It’s just the principle.

Those plants don’t just appear from nowhere,” he said.

“They are put in as a result of a lot of effort from people to enhance the town.”

Shipston’s mayor, Cllr Philip Vial, has also condemned whoever is responsible for the vandalism.

“It’s a bit tacky. It costs the town council about £6,000 each year to have them planted,”

he said.

“It makes the town look nice for visitors and people that work here and someone’s just come along and stolen them. They are planted by a group of only about eight volunteers.

“You can imagine how long it takes eight people to plant 4,500 bulbs. It’s just not very nice.