THIEVES stole valuable wood used to brighten up flood defences at Hayling.
They struck just days after contractors finished the work and made off with three 10ft sections which had taken weeks to install as part of a multi-million pound project to protect the island from the encroaching sea.
The wood covered steelwork along the shore, just south of Hayling bridge, opposite the Texaco garage, which is part of the Hayling Billy track popular with cyclists and walkers.
Contractors had worked hard to get it finished in time for Easter.
A 30ft section was stolen on Easter Sunday under the cover of darkness.
Paul Fisher, who regularly uses the Billy trail where the wood was stolen from, said: ‘The Environment Agency have done a very good job there.
‘They worked hard to get it finished for the Easter weekend and then it was stolen.
‘It’s a sad day when someone steals that sort of thing because it actually looks very nice.
‘It must have taken a lot of effort to steal that much. It’s awful.’
Because larch wood is rot resistant, frost hardy and tough it is a sought-after timber for use in places which are exposed to the elements.
The Environment Agency has now replaced the stretch of timber and added extra security nuts to the bolts.
In a statement the agency said it was disappointed to learn of the theft. It added: ‘The theft of the timber did not weaken the defences or cause the structure to be any less effective against minimising the risk flooding to the local community.
‘Work has now been carried out to replace the timber and to secure it in order to prevent any potential further incidents of theft.
‘We urge members of the public who have any information about the stolen timber to contact Hampshire Police.’
Anyone with information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.