STEEL bollards look set to be installed outside East of England Co-op stores following a series of ram raids.

The food retailer chain was targeted at more than ten of its stores across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk between September 2016 and this summer, by cash machine thieves.

The firm has now started to lodge planning applications to install the steel bollards outside its stores.

In application papers it states: “The applicant East of England Co-operative Society, are undertaking a programme of works to enhance the security of a number of their foodstores in light of recent criminal attacks.

“Works include providing bollards to protect automated teller machines and vulnerable shop fronts where appropriate.”

Applications for stores in Hadleigh and Woolpit, Suffolk, are the first to have been put forward.

It is not yet clear which other stores are being lined up for the additional security.

But a Co-op spokesperson said: “We are continuously reviewing the security and safety of all our stores to help reduce the risk of any potential incidents, and as such are introducing physical barriers to the fronts of stores where deemed appropriate.”

Last month the Co-op in Colchester Road, Halstead, was targeted by crooks who repeatedly reversed a lorry into the outside wall of the shop, before using saws and chains to wrench the cash machine from the building.

Both the stolen ATM and the three vehicles involved in the burglary were later recovered.

A temporary branch of the Co-op was set up in Dedham after thieves ram raided the store in the High Street last December.

Other Essex raids have been in Earls Colne, Brightlingsea and Great Bardfield, a village near Braintree.

Essex Police says it is investigating raids which it believes are linked and are continuing to keep an open mind.

In May, the firm reported a dent in its profits as a result of spending more on security measures following the raids.