THE CHAIRMAN of the Ramsgate Society has spoken of his frustration at persistent vandalism of the town's historic seafront shelters.
Jocelyn McCarthy says he cannot understand why the 14 Victorian shelters, dotted across both the West Cliff and Eastcliff, have been subject to repeated attacks since their restoration.
Shelters have been damaged on at least 12 separate occasions since July last year, with windows smashed at two sites in the past month, costing the society almost £1,000 in repair bills.
The Ramsgate Society led the £540,000 project to restore the structures, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Thanet council. The group also helped to raise £350,000 towards the work.
Mr McCarthy said: "Since we returned the restored shelters to the community last year, they have been deliberately damaged about 12 times. I have no idea whatsoever as to who is doing this. It is just vandalism basically, they are doing it for some sort of enjoyment. I just can't understand people's mentality – we have spent a fortune to restore the shelters.
"The shelters were disgusting in the past – people used them as public toilets. We are just trying to improve the local environment, it is frustrating because we have spent a lot of energy on this."
Mr McCarthy says the Ramsgate Society is looking to set up a CCTV system in a bid to finally protect the historic shelters.
The smashed windows, which will cost around £160 to replace, are the latest in a long line of attacks. In January, a shelter close to the Victoria Road kiosk had a number of windows smashed. In October windows were broken at a shelter near Granville Theatre.
In July 2013, two shelters were vandalised just weeks after work to restore them to their former glory had been completed.
Kent Police says two dedicated officers will deal with antisocial behaviour calls across Thanet this summer and officers have been instructed to pay special attention to the shelters.
Inspector Stephen Fennell said: "It is upsetting when so much hard work has gone into restoring these shelters, for them to be targeted by such wanton criminal damage.
"I am briefing my community policing teams to make them aware of this issue and so they can carry out extra patrols along the promenade whenever possible.
"I am also arranging for one of my officers to meet directly with the chairman of the Ramsgate Society to discuss the issues and to look at other avenues that can be explored.
"I would also urge the public to help keep the shelters safe by reporting anything suspicious."
The Ramsgate Society, which has leased the shelters from Thanet council since 2010, receives no funding for maintenance and will run a pop-up shop next month to help pay for the latest repairs.
The shop will open on May 10 in York Street, Ramsgate for a week. Donations to stock the shop are welcomed.