Beach laws: You could be ‘fined £1,000’ for collecting shells – 6 laws to know this summer

The official start of summer in the UK is just weeks away, with the summer solstice on June 21. As the temperatures heat up, Britons are set to flock back to coastal regions. However, there are some laws to know about before heading to the seaside.

Can I collect pebbles and shells?

Sea glass, pebbles, stones and shells are all popular trinkets to take home from a trip to the beach. However, according to the Coastal Protection Act 1949, this seaside tradition is actually illegal.

Experts from BPP University Law School explained: “Under the Coastal Protection Act 1949, it is actually illegal to take any kind of natural materials from public beaches and could see you fined up to £1,000 if you are caught.”

According to ITV News, in 2018 one tourist was forced to drive hundreds of miles to return pebbles after taking them from a pebble beach in Crackington Haven, Cornwall.

The visitor took a bag of stones as a souvenir, resulting in officials from St Gennys Parish Council “hunting down the naive visitor to his home” and “informing him if the stones were not returned, then a £1,000 fine would be imposed”.

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Can I walk my dog on the beach?

Dogs love running about on the beach just as much as humans. However, some beaches ban four-legged friends from joining the sun once the peak summer season arrives.

The BPP University Law School expert said: “During the summer months, as beaches get busier, a lot of councils around the UK impose restrictions on allowing dogs on their beaches under the Public Spaces Protection Order.

“Owners who are caught breaking the rules imposed by their local authorities could run the risk of being fined £100, so it’s always best to check before heading to the seaside.”

Can I have a barbecue on the beach?

A barbecue is a summer tradition come rain or shine in the UK, but firing up the grill oceanside could land you in a spot of bother.

The legal expert explained: “While it is perfectly legal to have BBQs on some beaches, a lot of local councils are now implementing their own rules that mean you cannot use disposable BBQs, in order to protect wildlife and reduce littering.

“Having a single-use disposable BBQ on some beaches where they are not allowed could see you being given a £100 fine and it being confiscated.”

Can I camp on the beach?

Camping saw a boom in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic, and what better place to wake up than alongside glorious vistas of the rolling tide?

Unfortunately, wild camping in the UK is illegal, and that includes on beaches.

Campers in the UK should only camp in designated areas.

The legal expert said: “Though it may seem like a harmless bit of fun, camping on beaches is actually illegal in most areas of the UK in order to reduce the amount of anti-social behaviour taking place.

“Beach staff will often patrol these areas hourly, and campers who refuse to move could see fines of up to £1000 or even face prosecution in court.”

Are there laws on private beaches?

Most beaches in the UK are open to the public, but there are a few that could catch you out.

If you stumble upon a sandy haven that looks surprisingly barren, make sure to double-check it is not private land before setting up camp for the day.

BPP University Law School said: “If you are found trespassing on a private beach without permission, you run the risk of being fined, and may even face legal consequences or prosecution if the offence is committed repeatedly.”


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