BEACH hut owners have hit out at “mindless” vandals who went on a wrecking spree on a Hampshire beach.

Police have launched an investigation after almost 20 huts near Calshot Activities Centre were either damaged or broken into by burglars armed with bolt-croppers.

The cost of repairing the damage and replacing items stolen is being put at hundreds of pounds.

It is the latest in a series of incidents at Calshot Beach in the past few years.

In 2008, 24 of the 280 huts were broken into and attempts made to enter two others.

The following year four were destroyed in an arson attack that caused damage totalling £5,000.

Most of the huts are owned by people who rent the wooden or concrete bases from New Forest District Council.

Describing the latest incident Pauline Haden, Calshot representative for the New Forest Beach Hut Owners’ Association, said: “I stood at one end and could see that many of the huts had been broken into.

“I informed all our members, who started coming down to the beach and telling police what was missing. They were more or less resigned to the fact that this had happened yet again and helped each other to secure the huts.

“It was mindless, unnecessary vandalism – probably carried out by just a few individuals.”

Cutlery, tea towels and gas cylinders were stolen from some of the huts, while larger items such as kayaks and dinghies were left untouched.

Police want to hear from anyone who saw cars parked near Calshot Beach on December 22 and 23, when the incident took place. Officers are also urging beach hut owners to make their property more secure.

PC Alison Tilbury said: “We would advise them to empty the huts over the winter months and to use security padlocks that can’t be bolt-cropped.”

Anyone with information should call PC Tilbury or PC Christopher Yates at Hythe police station