Beach hut rent rise fury

By David LennardBEACH hut owners in Southwold are facing increases of more than 100% in licence fees for their tiny wooden structures that line the resort's promenade.

By David Lennard

BEACH hut owners in Southwold are facing increases of more than 100% in licence fees for their tiny wooden structures that line the resort's promenade.

The wooden huts are some of the most desirable in the country and have been changing hands for more than £40,000.

The East Anglian Daily Times reported earlier this year that two beach huts had been placed on the market, at £45,000 and £35,000 respectively.

Waveney District Council is currently carrying out a full review into the beach huts in Southwold and members of its executive have decided current annual licence fees are set too low.

The basic charge for beach hut licences this year, depending on location, are £95.02, £132.26 and £160.72. These have been increased for the coming year to £150, £250 and £350.

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That means owners of beach huts in the more popular promenade locations, in the Gun Hill area, will see their annual licence fee more than double.

In a statement issued yesterday, Waveney District Council said: “The local authority has an obligation under the principles of achieving best value to receive appropriate payments in return for the provision of these facilities. The current pricing policy does not reflect an appropriate payment.”

The district council has proposed to continue with the current licensing arrangement for a further year to “allow for a period of further consultation” with the beach hut owners.

A spokesman for the district council said the beach huts attract a saleable value of £40,000, and occasionally more, and currently were subject to an annual licensing arrangement, giving the licence holder no security of tenure for their investment.

“It is proposed to offer all annual licence holders a lease for a longer period of time,” he added.

The Southwold Beach Hut Owners' Association had welcomed the idea of replacing the licence with a longer-term lease and also the additional time the district council has given for consultation on the terms and conditions.

But its chairman, Dr Slim Dinsdale, said he was “bitterly disappointed” at the council's latest announcement.

He added the association would continue to work with the district council over the beach huts, but said his members were upset the rises had been announced without their consultation.

“We have been working closely with the council's beach hut working party and were due to have a further meeting with them, but that was cancelled because of the executive meeting,” said Dr Dinsdale.

“Our proposals were to have a freeze on any licence increases this year while the consultation process was going on and we favoured the council having a percentage of any beach hut sale rather than these huge rent rises.”

Dr Dinsdale added there were elderly beach hut owners who would be “devastated” by the changes.

“I have already had one elderly hut owner in tears over this and it does seem extremely unfair,” he said.

“There are many beach hut owners who are on fixed incomes and this type of rise will hit them very hard indeed.”

There was also a great deal of anger among beach hut owners at the increases in the annual licence fees.

One beach hut owner, who asked not to be named, said: “Whenever a beach hut is put on the market for a great deal of money, it attracts a lot of publicity, but that is only part of the story.

“Many beach huts have been in families for generations and people have no intention of selling them, so they are being hit particularly hard.

“With such large increases, the beach huts at Southwold will only be affordable to the very rich and people who have huts for years will be forced to sell when they do not want to.”

But Frank Devereux, chairman of the district council's Southwold Beach Hut Working Party, said: “It is hoped that the beach hut owners will take the opportunity to participate actively in the consultation process that will now follow.”

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