Legal threat over beach hut rent hike

By David LennardTHE owners of some of the most sought-after beach huts in the country have threatened legal action if they are hit with a huge rent increase.

By David Lennard

THE owners of some of the most sought-after beach huts in the country have threatened legal action if they are hit with a huge rent increase.

The popular beach huts along the Promenade in Southwold have been changing hands for more than £40,000 each in some of the prime locations in the Gun Hill area.

Waveney District Council owns the land on which the huts are situated and is currently involved in negotiations with the Southwold Beach Hut Owners' Association on rents and long-term leases.

Association chairman, Dr Slim Dinsdale, said: “While the beach hut owners accept there will be an increase, the scale of that increase has to still be agreed.”

Beach hut owners are concerned that their rents could rise by more than 400%.

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At present, beach hut owners in the Gun Hill area of Southwold Promenade pay an annual rent in the region of £250.

But two new huts have been built by the district council and sold on long-term leases with an annual rent in the region of £1,300.

“A rent rise of that scale would simply be unacceptable. At present both ourselves and the district council are seeking independent valuations and we hope that when we meet again in January the two figures will not be that far apart,” said Dr Dinsdale.

Southwold Beach Hut Owners' Association has told the district council that if rent rises are too high, it will take legal action.

“Clearly resorting to legal action is not something we want to do, but the beach hut owners feel so strongly on this issue, we will be left with little alternative,” said Dr Dinsdale.

It is hoped if any rent rises are agreed, there will be discounts for beach hut owners on fixed incomes and people who have owned their chalet for considerable time.

“If safeguards are not built in, there is a real fear that the beach huts will only be owned by the very rich. The district council is aware of our concerns and have taken this on board,” said Dr Dinsdale.

Waveney District Council confirmed it was considering offering new long-term leases to existing beach hut owners.

It said the new leases were being discussed on terms that reflected “current market conditions” and added one of the issues it had to take into account was the duty to protect Council Tax payers' interests by securing the best possible return on its assets.

The council's regeneration portfolio lead, Wendy Mawer, said: “We have a responsibility to manage our assets in the most effective way possible to the benefit of the Council Tax payers as a whole.

“We would not be acting responsibly if we managed our assets in any other way.”

Dr Dinsdale said he accepted long-term leases would bring greater benefits and added the association was close to reaching an agreement with Waveney District Council.

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