Stacey Solomon joked she could be arrested for taking beach pebbles home - but what does the law say?

Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 2:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 3:03 pm
Bans on seemingly harmless acts can be enforced by local councils, and can see offenders fined up to £1,000 as a penalty. (Shutterstock)

Stacey Solomon has joked to fans on social media that she could be arrested, after taking pebbles from the beach while on a family holiday.

The 30-year-old singer-turned-TV presenter shared a post of herself collecting pebbles at the beach for a DIY project while on holiday with partner Joe Swash and their son Rex.

However her fans were quick to point out that such an act is illegal in England.

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To which the star replied, "Well, that's a bummer. I just spent two hours collecting those bad boys” before promising to return the pebbles.

So, were her fans right?

Is it illegal to remove pebbles from a beach in the UK?

Under the Coastal Protection Act 1949, the removal of any natural material such as sand and pebbles from public beaches in the UK is illegal.

Last year, a tourist who had holidayed near Crackington Haven beach, Cornwall was forced to drive hundreds of miles back to the spot in order to return some pebbles he had taken from the beach.

Pebble theft is in fact so prevalent in the area that Cornwall Council, which owns 57 of the county’s beaches, had to put up numerous warning signs explaining the illegal nature of the act for clarification.

Additionally, in 2018, the Metro reported on a group of thieves described by the paper as ‘grain gangs’, who would use JCB diggers to take large quantities of sand from Hemsby beach in Norfolk, in order to sell it on to builders.

Meanwhile over in Devon, council gardeners were forced to microchip public plants after suffering a “severe” amount of thefts in the area.

Why is it illegal?

Bans on seemingly harmless acts can be enforced by local councils, and can see offenders fined up to £1,000 as a penalty.

Yet while it may seem perfectly harmless, removing pebbles and other natural matter from the coast is in fact damaging to the environment.

As suggested by the name of the Act, and as stated in the introduction of the Act, taking natural material from a beach in the UK is illegal, in order to protect Britain's beaches “against erosion and encroachment by the sea”.

Pebbles and other natural matter act as a natural sea defence against coastal erosion, which many experts warn has become even more of an issue due to climate change.

A North Norfolk District Council spokesperson told Great Yarmouth Mercury, “Monitoring in North Norfolk shows there is less sand and material on the beach, therefore, removal of any significant volumes of beach material is not desirable.”

Additionally a spokesperson at Cornwall Council told the Metro it ‘strongly urged visitors not to remove stones or sand’.

‘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’.