A Grade-II listed theatre in Burnley has been left seriously damaged after reportedly being targeted by vandals.

Restoration work at abandoned Burnley Empire Theatre on St James Street was disrupted by the Covid-1 pandemic, with a subsequent fundraising campaign launched to help save the building - but now it has suffered another devastating blow.

Speaking of the incident on Twitter, bosses at the theatre say they believe the incident was a "deliberate and coordinated attack to cause as much criminal damage as possible", as opposed to it being the work of urban explorers.

The interior has been severely damaged and the ongoing restoration work has been interfered with as a result of the break-in.

The incident has been reported to Lancashire Police and anyone with information is asked to get in touch with officers.

A spokesperson for Burnley Empire Theatre said: "We are saddened to have to report that there has been a break-in at the #BurnleyEmpire 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.

"We have been in touch with the authorities and are appealing for anybody who has seen or knows anything about this to contact Lancashire Police.

"Criminal damage to a listed heritage building is a serious matter and damage to a theatre carried an even heavier sentence. We are unable to comment on this further as this is now a matter for the authorities.

"Finally just to reassure everyone has already kindly donated to the @crowdfunderuk appeal: we won't be putting the brakes on our efforts anytime soon. Thank you."

Lancashire Police have been contacted for comment on this incident.

For the latest news and breaking news visit the LancsLive website.

Get all the big headlines, pictures, analysis, opinion and video on the stories that matter to you.

Have you got news for us? Contact our newsdesk on [email protected]

You can sign up for free daily updates with the LancsLive newsletter here.