Pebble thefts: police warning

A LARGE haul of pebbles has been stolen from Budleigh Salterton beach, prompting a police warning.

A LARGE haul of pebbles has been stolen from Budleigh Salterton beach, prompting a police warning.

The town's neighbourhood beat manager, PC David Lea, said he had received reports from residents, saying people had been filling up wheelbarrows with the distinctive-looking pebbles and taking them away.

However, he warned that anyone found stealing large quantities of pebbles from the beach could face prosecution.

In a bid to crackdown on the pilfering, the district council, which owns the beach, is asking residents to be its ears and eyes - and report any thefts.

East Devon District Council said removing the pebbles was against the law.

The council said the pebbles offered essential beach protection, which the thieves were jeopardising. A district council spokesman said: "Taking pebbles off the beach is prohibited under East Devon District Council by-laws.

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"There is a very good reason - as maintaining the correct volume of pebbles on the beach is an important factor in coastal protection.

"The pebbles are not quickly replenished by the sea, so anyone stealing the stones will contribute to putting the area at an increased risk of flooding.

"We would ask anyone who witnesses the taking of quantities of pebbles off the beach to take photographs, if possible, and to note down the registration number of any vehicle involved in transporting the stones.

"If we can trace those responsible, we can and will prosecute."

Budleigh Salterton police said they were yet to witness any thefts.

Budleigh beat manager PC Lea said police were unlikely to take action against visitors taking one pebble as a souvenir.

He said youngsters filling small beach buckets with pebbles to take home would not face prosecution.

Police community support officer Malcolm Maguire said he believed the coloured pebbles were being used for building purposes, or to decorate gardens.

PCSO Maguire said: "We have had several reports from disgruntled residents concerned about the large number of pebbles being taken for personal use - to the extent some people have been going with wheelbarrows, which is an offence under local by-laws.

"People expect visitors might take one or two pebbles.

"The feeling I am getting from local residents is they are quite protective about the pebbles.