BEACH huts were broken into and vandalised.

Three huts on Hove seafront had their locks forced on New Year’s Day and were left with their doors open.

Pictures of the damaged huts were shared on social media by beach hut owner Stephen Arkell.

He said: “Mindless vandalism, one presumes.

“What a horrible New Year’s morning for those who have been affected.”

Stephen’s beach hut is near those that had been broken into.

He said: “The beach patrol called us this morning to say we had been broken into.

“They had gone past at 6am and everything was fine but when they went back at 7am the vandalism had occurred.

“We rushed down there but found our hut was OK, they had got our details wrong, but we found two in the same row that had been vandalised.”

Seafront officers from Brighton and Hove City Council carry out an inspection of the promenade and beach between Hove Lagoon and Saltdean Undercliff.

They start at 6am each day, operating all year-round.

Members fill a number of roles including providing lifeguard services and being responsible for the area’s beach huts.

Councillor Robert Nemeth represents the Wish ward, which includes Hove’s beach huts.

He is also the founder of the Hove Beach Hut Association.

This is a non-political group that defends the rights and interests of all beach hut owners in the area.

It was officially formed on September 21.

Later that month, members successfully campaigned to be included in future discussions about licences for the huts after fighting Brighton and Hove City Council’s plans to increase the transfer fee when huts are sold.

They held their first meeting on November 6, with a turnout of more than 100 people.

Cllr Nemeth highlighted the future importance of the association.

He said: “This sort of incident is upsetting and exactly why we need an association to stand up for hut owners.

“Now that Hove Beach Hut Association is up and running, we can do more to lobby both council and police to keep a proper eye on the seafront.”

This is not the first time the huts in this area have been targeted by vandals.

In April, 2018, 66 huts and chalets were broken into and left with their fronts smashed to pieces in Kingsway, Hove.

At the time, Cllr Nemeth said that Sussex Police “need to toughen up in our area”.

Beach huts were introduced to Hove seafront after a resident told Hove Council in 1923 that they believed “bathing chalets” would improve the area’s sea bathing facilities.

By 1936, they had replaced bathing tents, and there are now an estimated 450 beach huts in Hove.

These are being sold for amounts as much as £25,000.