A glass sea defence panel being tested in Sidmouth – which survived three major storms – has been shattered by vandals.
The trial of the transparent splash wall on The Esplanade literally received a hammer blow when it fell victim to ‘a malicious and destructive act’.
Wild winter weather, storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge and a battering from waves and millions of pebbles had previously left the 39mm-thick laminated item largely unscathed.
But district council chiefs say the panel was hit on its landward side with a ‘heavy blunt object like a sledge hammer’ last night (Tuesday, March 10).
The vandalism has now cast doubt over whether glass can be incorporated in a raised sea wall on Sidmouth seafront.
An East Devon District Council (EDDC) spokesperson said its StreetScene team concluded that the weather was not the cause of the damage – with the panel’s sea-facing side is still intact.
They added: “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.”
EDDC says it has contacted Flood Control International, which installed the panel and we will be checking CCTV footage in a bid to identify the culprits.
The damage has been reported to police.
Councillor Geoff Jung, portfolio holder for the environment, 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.