‘Elitist’ plans to auction beach huts could now be scrapped

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

District bosses could bow to public pressure and scrap controversial plans to auction Sidmouth’s beach huts ‘to the highest bidder’.

The proposals to terminate existing contracts across East Devon – which would see the town’s 24 units auctioned off - were slammed as ‘elitist’ and a ‘threat to a way of life’ by critics.

On Thursday (September 17), East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) scrutiny committee considered a raft of new recommendations, that included a ‘right to buy’ option and tenants to pay a higher ‘market’ rent and their own non-domestic rates.

The possible change in tack follows a consultation on the proposed amendments to lease agreements of the hundreds of huts, chalets and plots across East Devon’s coastal communities.

A total of 97 per cent of current tenants said the plans would have a ‘negative effect’ on them, with fears that a bidding system would see residents priced out of the market and the beachfront assets going only to the rich.

However, EDDC has warned the huts will have to start paying for themselves in light of government funding cuts.

As part of its proposals, the authority plans to add 10 new huts on Chit Rocks – a move slammed by residents as ‘commercialism of the seafront’ – and upgrade the structures at Jacob’s Ladder.

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Tom Griffiths, who ran the Sidmouth beach hut concession for many years, has called the authority’s bid to auction off the buildings an ‘appalling plan’.

He told the Herald he was still ‘totally against’ the possible auction of the beach huts in Sidmouth, but would now await the outcome of the scrutiny committee meeting.

Mr Griffiths has also warned against the construction of new huts near the Millennium Walkway and expressed concern they could block the path of the lifeboat.

Letters sent in response to the consultation suggested that the beach huts should be given to town and parish councils – 14 of these were in relation to Beer Parish Council.