Battling beach hut owners to submit plans to save sites

Felixstowe beach hut owners raged after being told they are being evicted from their beach huts

Felixstowe beach hut owners angry after being told they are being evicted from their seafront sites - Ruth Dugdall-Marshall with an Edwardian poster showing the huts - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Beach hut owners are preparing their own planning application for a new seafront site to try to persuade council chiefs not to evict them.

Huts have stood in the Spa Pavilion area in Felixstowe for around 140 years - and the resort is said to have been the first in the country to have had beach huts. 

Owners of the huts say they are disappointed at East Suffolk Council's (ESC) attitude and do not believe all the options have been fully explored, contrary to the authority's assertion.

Following decisions on alternative sites earlier this week, the council has now issued the 44 huts on the prom with site lease termination notices and say 14 will be left homeless after others have been relocated.

Some of the huts which have been stranded on the prom because of beach erosion

Some of the huts which have been stranded on the prom because of beach erosion - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Award-winning crime novelist Ruth Dugdall-Marshall - whose family has owned a hut near the Spa for 20 years - said the huts were a "heritage asset".

She said: "There have been huts on this part of the beach since 1880 and Felixstowe was the first in the UK to have beach huts. People like the huts - they stand and look at them, say they are pretty, take pictures of them. It feels very cruel that they have to move."

There have been no complaints about the huts being marooned on the prom and unable to return to the shore because of erosion.

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She said: "We don't believe a proper argument has been put forward for moving us. We are told we are blocking the prom, a highway, but no-one has complained.

"The huts have wintered on the prom since the 1940s - so why have they suddenly become an obstruction now?

Felixstowe beach hut owners raged after being told they are being evicted from their beach huts

Felixstowe beach hut owners angry at being told they are being evicted from their hut sites - Credit: Charlotte Bond

"The council says it has explored all options but we feel there are still options that should be considered."

Firstly, hut owners would like the possibility of raised wooden platforms on stilts on the beach examined. These have been constructed on the shore in Undercliff Road East and the huts there are removed and left on the prom each winter.

The stilts go deep into the beach to guard against erosion and have proved successful over many years.

The hut owners say they would be prepared to pay for the work.

Beach hut owners are battling to keep their seafront sites at Felixstowe

Beach hut owners are battling to keep their seafront sites at Felixstowe - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Secondly, the hut owners are preparing to submit a planning application to ESC for an area of council-owned land next to the prom. They believe it would be possible to cut niches out of the raised grass area bordering the prom in front of the Spa Pavilion.

This could create sites for up to 18 huts, and again they would be happy to bear the costs.

Some huts have exchanged hands for more than £50,000 - with the value dependent on where they are located on the seafront. If they are homeless, that value would drop to nothing overnight.

ESC has approved creating six new plots on the South Beach in Sea Road by lengthening the existing platform, and 18 directly on the beach near the Clifflands steps and golf club, where the beach is less susceptible to high tides.

Felixstowe beach hut owner Ruth Dugdall-Marshall

Felixstowe beach hut owner Ruth Dugdall-Marshall - Credit: Charlotte Bond

However, proposals to create a row of 18 on the clifftop in Golf Road were refused because it would have resulted in the loss of up to 16 trees, while 16 at Manor End between the sea wall and promenade were turned down because of the loss of precious coastal vegetated shingle.

Hut owners are looking at whether they can challenge the Manor End decision.

Meanwhile, leaseholders of the huts on the prom have received notices of termination.

The council said there was "no safe option" for the huts' return to the beach and the temporary solution, which impacts on other users of the prom, is not a viable permanent option.

Hut owners at Felixstowe want two options explored to keep their hut sites

Hut owners at Felixstowe want two options explored to keep their hut sites - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Council officers met with Felixstowe’s Beach Hut and Chalet Association to discuss the issue but confirmed there were no further options available for the 14 with no new locations.

A council spokesman said: “The council is disappointed that only two of the four applications were subject to approval by the local planning authority, giving 24 spaces.

“The council has a further six spaces available that have already received planning permission – four at The Dip, one additional space at the extreme left of Manor End and a third-row site at Brackenbury, giving a total of 30 hut sites.

Felixstowe beach hut owners are willing to pay for a solution to enable them to keep their hut sites

Felixstowe beach hut owners are willing to pay for a solution to enable them to keep their hut sites on the resort's seafront - Credit: Charlotte Bond

“This will leave 14 hut owners without a site.  All 44 hut owners have already received notice of termination for their existing sites at the Spa.”

“Officers met with the Beach Hut and Chalet Association to discuss this as a priority. Sadly, there will be some beach hut owners for whom an allocation will not be available.”