Beach huts price hike ‘call-in’ plea rejected

Sidmouth's beach huts. Ref shs 0839-03-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth's beach huts. Ref shs 0839-03-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Efforts to have a decision to raise beach hut prices across East Devon reconsidered have been refused.

The district council confirmed this week that it had received two requests to ‘call in’ the price hike and have it reviewed before it becomes final.

But the authority’s chief executive, Mark Williams, ruled that neither of the attempts were valid - saying that the council had already debated, and taken into account the issues and approved the controversial price rise.

The Herald reported last week how the cost of renting one of Sidmouth’s seafront properties is set to almost double over the next two years.

Renters in Sidmouth paid £521.67, excluding VAT, in 2015/16, but that is set to rise to £762 this year and to £1,002 in 2017/18.

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The hike came under fire last week from current tenants, who branded the move ‘greedy’ and said it could lead to local people being priced out of using them.

Some councillors were equally disappointed. Following the decision, EDDC received the two ‘call-in’ requests - one from Seaton councillor Peter Burrows and one from Budleigh Salterton representative Councillor Alan Dent.

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Both raised concerns that increased prices would see some residents struggle to pay, which could lead to fewer huts being rented and ultimately less income for EDDC.

The authority says its current fees are ‘very low’ when compared to other areas and the increase is a ‘fair reflection of the market’.

Speaking in support of the attempted call-ins, Cllr Marianne Rixson, ward member for Sidmouth/Sidford, said EDDC had not ‘compared like with like’ when deciding on its new tariff.

She said: “The increase they have gone for is really high and they haven’t used a fair comparison. There’s a big difference between modern beach huts which have running water and electricity, for example like the ones at Poole, or if it’s just a wooden hut. I don’t see how you can compare something like the huts at Poole, which are double storey and have disabled access, with a beach hut which is made of wood and perhaps past its sell by date. But [EDDC] wants to charge the same amount of rent.”

Commenting on the two declined call-ins, Mr Williams said: “While we understand the issue of possible hardship and the other matters raised, they were already among the many issues surrounding price increases that were debated last year and taken account of when the decision was reached. For this call-in to be effective, it needed to address the point of open market rents since the portfolio holder decision was seeking to implement the earlier council decision.”

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