Pebble theft creates ripples in Cornwall

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 23 August 2018

A row has broken out over signs set up on a Cornish beach telling people they face prosecution if they take pebbles and stones away with them.

Crackington Haven, Bude, Cornwall
© Guiseppe Milo

Spread widely, this shouldn’t pose a problem, but some beaches have particularly irresistible pebbles, and some are especially prone to erosion.

Richard Harrington,
MCS Head of Communications

A number of signs have been erected at Crackington Haven beach after theft of the shiny, coloured stones had become commonplace.

However, local people have voiced their concerns on social media saying that the large red and yellow signs were heavy handed and ruined the beach. And as the row escalated locally, it emerged that a holidaymaker had been tracked down to the Midlands and asked to return a bag of stones he’d taken or face prosecution. Removing stones from public beaches without a licence is illegal under the Coastal Protection Act 1949.

Extra signs were installed in late July due to complaints to the council about stones being removed, according to St Gennys parish clerk, Barry Jordan. Two of the four warning signs have now been removed following local criticism of them.

Speaking to the ‘Daily Telegraph’, Mr Jordan said: “Those who saw the damage of the floods a few years ago know what water can do, take away the pebbles and the haven would be damaged during every storm.”

Cornwall Council said it “strongly urged visitors not to remove stones or sand”. A spokesman said: “It may seem harmless but given the many thousands of visitors to Cornwall’s beaches every year every stone removed could have an impact on coastal erosion, natural flood defences and wildlife habitats”.

MCS urges caution and common sense when it comes to removing stones and pebbles.

Richard Harrington, MCS Head of Communications, says: “The subject of whether it is OK or not to pick up small numbers of items like pebbles and take them away isn’t as cut and dried as it might seem. Many children (and adults) will collect a pebble, a fossil or a shell to take home from a trip to the beach. If you find your toddler has a pocketful of pebbles when you arrive home from a trip to the seaside, it can help start a lifelong connection to the coast.

“Spread widely, this shouldn’t pose a problem, but some beaches have particularly irresistible pebbles, and some are especially prone to erosion. Taking bags full of shingle or large boulders home in the boot of your car to help build a rockery is a definite no-no. Under the Coastal Protection Act 1949, it is actually illegal to take beach materials without a licence. Stones and sand on a beach tend to protect the coast behind it from erosion and flooding during storms. So, the saying “take only memories, leave only footprints” is generally a good one - and taking photos with phones and cameras is easier than ever these days, too.”

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