Council accused over beach hut charges

A COUNCIL has been accused of “severely mishandling its finances” after it emerged it was considering charging beach hut owners £700,000 for improvements.

A COUNCIL has been accused of “severely mishandling its finances” after it emerged it was considering charging beach hut owners £700,000 for improvements.

About 100 beach hut owners in the seaside town of Frinton could be forced to spend the next 25 years paying for the upgrading of wooden stagings if Tendring District Council goes ahead with its plans.

The owners of the huts, who are actually rent-paying tenants, have been left dismayed by the news.

A financial forecast for the council's corporate management committee revealed it was considering charging the beach hut owners for the work to “free up” the money to be spent on other projects.

But beach hut owner Giles Watling is one of those who reacted angrily, calling for the council, as landlord and rent gatherer, to pick up bill.

He has now written to the council, calling it to re-think its strategy.

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“It seems that a serious mishandling of finances has occurred,” he said.

“I believe there is a case to be investigated and this should be looked at carefully from a legal point of view.

“As tenants I understand that we have the responsibility of the huts themselves. We supply, maintain and repair them at our own expense.

“All the council has to supply is the pilings on which they [the beach huts] stand, for which they receive the annual sum, at present, of £45,000.

“It seems to me outrageous that the council could even consider coming to the owners for a contribution towards maintenance of an asset which is entirely their responsibility.”

He also called into question the £700,000 figure for upgrading the staging because the results of an independent survey done for the beach hut owners suggested only remedial work was needed, not a full replacement.

But Nigel Brown, Tendring District Council's communications manager, said a private meeting had recently taken place with representatives of the beach hut owners.

“It was explained at the meeting that a survey has been carried out that reveals that the standings need replacing and the work will cost £500,000.

“We listened to views from the beach hut owners over a number of issues. Those views have been considered and a letter will be sent out to each owner with the council's proposal for the way forward and we will be asking for the owners' observations on that,” he said.

He said along with the half million pounds to be spent on the beach huts in the Walings section, £200,000 needed to be spent on huts in the Leas area of the seafront.

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