Felixstowe beach hut owners tell their stories of their beloved seaside retreats

Small spaces of seaside happiness

Small spaces of seaside happiness - Credit: Gregg Brown

Beach hut owners in Felixstowe are distressed by Suffolk Coastal District Council’s plans to put up rental and administration fees on the huts which, they say, will make the cost prohibitive and force them to sell the huts they have loved, looked after and made their own – over many decades in some cases.

Two of Anna's children, Rachel and William, at the hut (picture taken eight years ago)

Two of Anna's children, Rachel and William, at the hut (picture taken eight years ago) - Credit: Archant

While the owners understand the funding difficulties facing the council, they are determined to fight to keep their precious patch of beach happiness. Here, some owners share their thoughts about what their hut means to them and what a huge blow it would be if they had to give it up.

Anna Cooper, from Burstall

My friend, Pat James, and I bought our hut 20 years ago. Pat was after a hut at Walton at the time, but they were too expensive! We decided to go halves on hut number 727 and always joked that we would never realise our investment as we couldn’t bear to part with it.

Sarah Caddick with Brenda (seated inside the hut) and Phil (l)

Sarah Caddick with Brenda (seated inside the hut) and Phil (l) - Credit: Archant

I now have three children who have grown up with the hut, had great fun with their friends, have become confident sea swimmers and who can’t imagine what life would be like without ‘the hut’. Since my friend’s untimely death in 2015, we now share the hut with her daughter and her children and their friends too.

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Of course you can come to Felixstowe any time and have a day at the beach, but there is something special about having the hut: a place to rest and relax, out of the sun (or rain!) make a cup of tea and generally watch the world go by.

The costs and changes that SCDC are looking to impose would make owning a hut prohibitive. We all appreciate that the council have a funding gap to fill but using beach hut owners as cash cows is wrong.

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Sarah Caddick, Felixstowe

A three-year old Eileen Vinyard

A three-year old Eileen Vinyard - Credit: Archant

Before I bought my beach hut, I could only stay out at the beach for a short while. I have ME, use a wheelchair and scooter, and have to rest lying down every couple of hours throughout the day. During the past few years, since I’ve had my beach hut, my quality of life and independence has improved beyond measure. On good days I can go, independently, to the beach hut on my scooter and stay all day, resting inside on the lounger when I need to. Friends and family join me at my hut, and I rest while they go for a walk. I can join in with ‘the whole day out’, rather than only seeing them for an hour and having to be taken home to rest.

I am a medically retired teacher, and my pension and benefits won’t cover the proposed new license fee. For me my beach hut isn’t an extravagance – it’s essential to give me the independence and freedom to be able to stay out longer than an hour or so. If I have to give up my hut... there would certainly be no more days out at the beach!

Gareth Craze, Ipswich

Our beach hut was bought when our children were babies and they are now 23 and 25. It was bought as a present for my wife and I by my in-laws, who were hoping to move to Felixstowe from Ely. Unfortunately, my father in law passed away, but over the years we have brought up the children and spent time with grandma in our cherished beach hut.

Gareth Craze's beloved beach hut

Gareth Craze's beloved beach hut - Credit: Archant

Mother in law is now 95 and she loves to sit at our hut and people watch. We will never sell it and hope that we can pass it on to our children. We have named our hut Crazy Days BH 831 and we just love it.

We would be totally lost, as would our family, if the rates go up to the point that we cannot afford to pay them.

Shirley Daley, Ipswich

My husband and I bought our beach hut about 10 years ago with some money from my mother’s estate. My mum’s house was sold to fund her nursing care and after her death there was a little money left so we bought the beach hut. As we are retired we spend as much time as the weather allows at our Felixstowe beach hut. Our hut is named after my mum.

Felixstowe beach huts at The Dip
ES 21 02 02

Felixstowe beach huts at The Dip WIN A BEACH HUT ES 21 02 02

If we did not have our hut we would not go to Felixstowe as often and would not be spending money in the town’s local shops and restaurants.

Eileen Vinyard, Ipswich

Our original beach hut was built by my grandfather who was a carpenter, around 100 years ago (I am now 83 years old). So we have never bought a beach hut. Originally it was placed on the Wireless Green, close to Beach Station. We travelled to it at weekends and spent a week-long holiday there every year when I was a child (like so many other Ipswich people). Great memories of games and overseas relatives span five generations. When SCDC gave notice to the beach hut owners to move, we were one of the fortunate families to receive a plot near the pier. But during a storm in the mid-1990s it was, sadly, swept out to sea. A standard beach hut was its replacement on the plot allocated.

The beach hut was and still is my holiday. The huts all hold great memories and expectations for future generations.

Terry Bristow-Jones, Debenham

I bought my hut in 2009. I had spent my early years, in the 1950s, living in Felixtowe and have many happy memories of the beach and the sea, and my aunt’s hut.

I have two daughters. One of them has complex disabilities. She loves the beach, but has to have somewhere to change and somewhere to lie down and rest. The hut on the front row, where she could have supported facilities, was perfect. She now uses it with other friends who also have disabilities, and they get a lot of fun out of going there. When the walk was held for the Heart Foundation, we dressed the hut, ourselves, food and drink on the Queen of Hearts theme, from Alice in Wonderland.

It is a family hut – a place for children to grow and for fun, laughter and solitude if you want it, as well as fresh air and beautiful views. It is sociable, part of a community and a lovely tradition.

I struggle to pay for it now, but will do everything I can to keep it. It would be a massive loss to Felixstowe and its tradition and history if the increases outpriced what many can pay. We are not Southwold or Wells-next-the-sea.

• Members of the Felixstowe Beach Hut and Chalet Association are to march along Felixstowe seafront on Sunday March 12, to protest against the proposed introduction of a lease premium and significant rises to their annual beach hut rent.

Suffolk Coastal District Council says its services are under intense pressure from cuts to Government grants and it wants to achieve a market rate for its hut sites.

Its proposals will see a 10% annual rent rise from next year, increasing annual income by £430,000 to £736,000, almost doubling rents, within eight years.

One of the plans is to change the current annual licence to a 10-year lease to give owners more site security. At the end of their first lease, current owners would have to pay a £7,000 premium to secure the next one.

The council is also planning to increase the number of beach huts by 10% on new or existing sites and these could then be rented out for between £718 and £1,105 a year. It has been suggested people might bid for the right for a lease on one of these new sites – in Southwold this process saw people pay up to £120,000.

• The council is carrying out a consultation until February 17. People can take part here

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