Beach huts destroyed by heavy seas

SOME of the most popular beach huts in the country have been smashed to pieces after heavy seas battered the promenade at Southwold during the early hours of yesterday.

By David Lennard

SOME of the most popular beach huts in the country have been smashed to pieces after heavy seas battered the promenade at Southwold during the early hours of yesterday.

A combination of strong north-westerly winds and high tides led to huge waves smashing over the concrete wall.

Throughout yesterday owners of the tiny wooden huts had the heartbreaking task of salvaging what they could from what remained of their seaside retreats.

One owner, who was carrying deck chairs and other personal belongings from the wrecked remains of her hut, said: "This has all come as something of a shock. I could not believe the scene of devastation when I arrived here."

For Paul Denny, of Reydon, near Southwold, the scene rekindled memories of the great floods that devastated the area in 1953.

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"I was a young boy in 1953 and I remember visiting the seafront with my father.

"This is not on the same scale as that terrible event but once again we are seeing the power of the sea," he said.

Mr Denny was also salvaging personal belongings from his family's beach hut.

"This is the first time anything like this has happened since we have owned the beach hut.

"I am not a builder but it looks like our beach hut is beyond repair. What I can say though is that it will be replaced.

"We will definitely be back here as a family enjoying our beach hut on the promenade next year," said Mr Denny.

His determination to replace the damage was echoed by other nearby owners who all said they were determined to have their huts ready for use for next summer.

Local builder Geoff Ladd said: "I will be boarding up as many of the huts as I can so that they are secure."

However, he felt many beach hut owners had made a mistake in not removing them for the winter.

"Most years I remove the huts from this stretch of promenade and they are stored safely on the nearby car park.

"But after two years when there were no problems with high tides the owners got permission to keep them on the promenade but unfortunately it has meant a lot of huts have been damaged," he added.

In one row of huts to the south of the pier all 19 were damaged with Mr Ladd estimating that at least ten were beyond repair.

About 50 beach huts from the pier to Gun Hill were damaged along with the refreshment kiosks used during the summer months.

Large parts of the promenade were covered with sand and shingle washed up from the beach and sprayed across the concrete paths by huge waves.

The damaged beach huts were all situated south of the pier as those to the north side are lifted over the sea wall and kept on a nearby car park every winter.

Earlier this month an exhibition was held at Southwold Pier looking at improving the town's sea defences.

The Environment Agency and Waveney District Council is proposing to apply to the Government for funding for the scheme next year.

There are fears that if improvements are not carried out Southwold's sea defences will fail by 2020.

n The planned re-opening of a stretch of north Suffolk coastline to the public this week has been postponed following damage caused by the seas.

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said it was not yet known when the stretch of promenade at Corton, near Lowestoft, would be opened.

Yesterday's high seas caused damage to handrails and other repairs carried out since the area was hit by storm damage and landfalls in 1999.