Hut rent hike 'could hit fishermen'
A MASSIVE rent hike on boat and fishing huts at Southwold Harbour may hit the town's small fishing industry, it has been warned.Cash-strapped Waveney District Council is proposing to increase annual hut leases to up to ten times the present amount of £44, plus charge all 83 owners who use their huts for boating or fishing purposes a legal fee of £100 for a new lease.
A MASSIVE rent hike on boat and fishing huts at Southwold Harbour may hit the town's small fishing industry, it has been warned.
Cash-strapped Waveney District Council is proposing to increase annual hut leases to up to ten times the present amount of £44, plus charge all 83 owners who use their huts for boating or fishing purposes a legal fee of £100 for a new lease.
Under the proposals, owners of small huts will see their £44 rent more than double to £100, owners of medium sized huts will see rent rise to £150, while owners selling fish from their huts - whatever the size - will have to pay £400 or £500.
Graham Hay Davison, chairman of the Southwold Harbour and River Blyth Users Association, owns a medium-sized hut to store sailing equipment.
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He said: "In principal, the harbour users do not object to the increase to the larger huts in relation to the smaller huts - we find that fair and reasonable, but not the large amounts that are proposed.
"We also object to this tax on Southwold long-shore fishermen from selling fish from their sheds which commercial fishermen will not have to pay because they sell their fish in Lowestoft."
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He said the council's district valuer had pointed to the increase in property prices in Southwold in drawing up the proposals but Mr Hay Davison believed there was no relation between the fishing huts rents and freehold property prices in the town.
He had recommended to council officials that small hut owners should pay £50 in rent, owners of medium-sized huts £100 and that the rent increases for fish sellers should be scrapped.
However, the council's district valuer left the authority last month and Mr Hay Davison has not heard anything more from the council regarding hut fees which may be introduced in April.
Colin Clarke, 53, of Kessingland, has fished out of Southwold Harbour for 20 years.
He said: "The rent proposals are a bit astronomical. I have no water supply or electricity. It's not fair on people trying to make a living. Fishing is hard enough without these increases. I cannot see how they can justify them.
"I will not be able to afford to pay and will have to transfer my fish and sell it to Lowestoft where I will only take a cut. I would also have to weigh up the pros and cons of fishing out of Southwold - although the cost is lower out of Southwold and it would save me a journey, all the facilities are in Lowestoft."
A spokesman for the district council said a property service was currently determining hut leases while negotiating with the Fishermen's Association.