Beach hut owners fury at rent rise
BEACH hut owners threatened with a 100% rent hike this year are seeking legal advice to see if they can challenge the council decision.Waveney District Council has told hut owners at Southwold that rents for beach huts in the Gun Hill area would double, and those nearer the pier would face rises of around 30%.
BEACH hut owners threatened with a 100% rent hike this year are seeking legal advice to see if they can challenge the council decision.
Waveney District Council has told hut owners at Southwold that rents for beach huts in the Gun Hill area would double, and those nearer the pier would face rises of around 30%.
Some beach huts have changed hands in recent years for up to £40,000.
The move leaves many owners facing a lump sum payment in May of nearly £500. But according to the Southwold Beach Hut Owners Association, a question mark hangs over the legality of the increase this year, as letters informing owners went out too late for owners to decide whether or not to pay up or sell up.
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Beach hut owners had a chance this week at their annual general meeting to regsiter their objections to invited councillors, Peter Austin, the member for Reydon and Southwold, and Brian Hunter, leader of the council.
About 100 owners attended the meeting at St Edmunds Hall where feelings ran high.
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The council sent letters to the owners informing them of the increase in January. However, the licence states the council should inform licence holders of reviewed fees by the end of December so that "if the Licensee is not prepared to accept such revised Licence Fee he shall have sufficient time to serve notice determining his Licence…"
Association chairman Dr Slim Dinsdale said the steep increase had left many owners deeply distressed.
"It has caused huge consternation among our members. One elderly lady was in tears," Dr Dinsdale said.
He pointed out that many of the huts have belonged to people for generations, and those with fixed incomes like pensioners feared they would have to sell their huts because they could not afford to keep them.
"Beach hut owners are not all rich people with vast sums of money to spare. "Most have had these huts in their families for two generations or purchased them years ago when they were only a couple of thousand pounds – which seemed expensive then.
Dr Dinsdale added: "Of three huts for sale at the north beach, I know of one which is specifically for sale as a result of the increase. The owner can't stand the worry and expense any longer."
"We expect to pay a small increase each year but this is astronomical."
Councillor Hunter said Waveney had an obligation to look at all its assets and gain "best value" from them, which is why the executive recommended the increase.
After attending the meeting he said he was better able to understand the beach hut owners' viewpoint.
"I went to listen and form an opinion and things came out that I was unaware of. I was grateful to learn the opinions of the people affected. We have a dialogue going, and I have represented those opinions back to the council. I now have a better understanding of the issues surrounding the beach huts at Southwold."
Peter Austin said that although he could understand people being unhappy about the sudden high increase the hike was justified as Waveney was obliged to make the most of its assets.
"A lot of councillors look at what goes on in Southwold without a lot of sympathy. While I can sympathise with some individual cases, the increases are a reasonable amount to pay for ground rent. They seem high because they are coming from a low base," he said.
A motion was passed unanimously at the meeting opposing the rent increase for the coming year and questioning the legality of it.