Glass panel being trialled by East Devon District Council as part of the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Scheme has been smashed by vandals

At some point last night (Tuesday 10 March), the glass splash panel that we are trialling on Sidmouth esplanade, as part of the Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme, was smashed on the landward side.   

Our StreetScene team has inspected the panel and although the weather was unsettled yesterday evening, they have concluded that this was not the cause of the damage. They have confirmed that  although the sea facing side is still intact, deliberate criminal damage has clearly been inflicted on the glass’s landward facing surface – possibly with a hammer or similar heavy instrument.

The trial of the panel is due to finish at the end of April and so far the glass appeared to be holding up well, having weathered the impact of three major storms. In light of its robustness to date it is therefore disappointing and immensely frustrating that it has succumbed to this malicious and destructive act.

Sadly, this is not the first time that someone has vandalised the panel - three chips on its landward side had been spotted recently, which are not consistent with shingle impact marks.  

This new act of vandalism jeopardises an important part of the Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme, and sadly has implications for the installation of a glass panel along the entire seafront to help protect Sidmouth from coastal flooding. If a glass panel is going to be subject to repeated damage by vandals, then it will not be sustainable. We will now have to consider very carefully, whether the use of glass panels to minimise the visual impact of the splash defence is a material option that the council can take forward.

The council has contacted Flood Control International who installed the panel and we will be checking CCTV footage covering the site to try and identify the culprits. The damage has been reported to the police and we are awaiting a crime number. We will work with the Police and seek a prosecution if possible.

Commenting on the damage, Cllr Geoff Jung, portfolio holder for the environment at East Devon, said:

The test panel of glass may have provided a possible solution to the required protection for the Sidmouth and East Beach management plan that would have protected residents and properties from serious overtopping along the seafront. However we knew this would severely test the 39mm thick laminated glass from storm damage with millions of stones and pebbles being thrown at it, and we also were concerned that damage could come from vandalism. It is clear the panel was up to the task of resisting shingle and storms, but sadly failed to withstand vandalism. An initial inspection strongly suggests the glass was smashed by a heavy blunt object such as a sledge hammer.  

The funding for the whole scheme was already restrictive, and the glass panel solution, along the seafront may have overcome many residents’ concerns regarding a solid wall with floodgates. The vandalism of the panel now casts doubt on its use in the final scheme.

With a number of localised cliff falls and the dropping of beach levels in recent weeks and now the vandalism to the glass panel, it has highlighted the urgency of delivering a protection scheme for Sidmouth. The biggest obstacle, though, is the required funding from government; the  funding gap is sadly still over a £1m for the scheme.

Ward member Cllr Denise Bickley said:

I am so disappointed that a few vandals have spoilt what could have been an innovative solution to the very serious wall issue, as the integrated glass panels could have looked very special. Potentially having to withdraw this idea due to vandalism is such a pity and unfortunately will say something about the town rather than about the glass itself. I sincerely hope the CCTV footage can identify the perpetrators of this act and we should all call it what it was - criminal damage to property, and not something to be bragged about. We should also remember that any type of wall of or sea defence could be damaged by vandalism, whatever it was constructed from.