BRAZEN thieves are being hunted after they were spotted loading the boots of their cars with tonnes of pebbles stolen from a Fylde coast beach.
Campaigners today revealed they have been verbally abused after challenging people seen using snow shovels to scoop pebbles into sacks from Rossall Beach in Cleveleys.
Town hall chiefs say at least a tonne of pebbles has been lifted - and today warned vital sea defences are being damaged, putting people’s homes at risk of flooding.
Officers have taken photographs of the pebble plunderers and passed them on to Lancashire Police, which confirmed it is investigating the spate of thefts.
It is believed the pebbles – which can cost £10 for a 25kg bag in builder’s merchants – are being stolen to be used as garden and bathroom features.
And the taxpayer could be forced to foot the bill to replace them if the thefts continue.
Jane Littlewood, chairman of Rossall Beach Residents and Community Group, said it is planning to put signs up to advise people that taking the pebbles is an enforceable offence.
She added: “It’s been happening every few days, especially on nice days. People want to use them for their gardens – they are very expensive.
“When our trustees have spoken to these people, they have been very rude to them and carried on.
“The tide doesn’t bring more pebbles up and deposit them so the pebbles are progressively disappearing.
“They are disappearing to the point we have got sand and plants growing in that area now.
“The pebbles dissipate the energy of the waves but they are being eroded away.
“If they are not there the water will come over. In winter, when there is a bad wind and high tide, it comes up to the wall and there have been floods.
“These pebbles are native to the beach and are a vital sea defence.”
A spokesperson from the Environment Agency added: “The pebbles do form part of the natural sea defences at Rossall Beach. If they are disturbed or moved, there is a chance that the risk of flood to local properties could be increased.”
Jubilee ward councillors David Walmsley and John Hodgkinson (left) warned the removal of pebbles at Rossall Beach is a criminal offence.
Coun Walmsley added: “I have seen it myself. Historically, people fill a bag with pebbles for their garden but now we know there are people turning up to take a serious amount of pebbles, they are filling up the boot of their cars.
“People think they can just help themselves but that beach material protects the wall in the event of a storm surge.
“It is massively important beach material is kept there. People around here have not forgotten the big flood of November 11, 1977 – we don’t want that to happen again.”
A Wyre Council spokesman added: “Council officers have spotted people loading their cars with large pebbles from the beach on a number of occasions this summer. Where possible photographs have been taken and the details have been passed on to the police.
“As well as committing an offence, these people are destroying vital sea defences that protect nearby properties from flooding.”
Lancashire Police confirmed it is looking into the offences and anyone with information can contact them on 101.