Price hike hits take-up of Sidmouth beach huts

A sign on Sidmouth's vacant beach huts

A sign on Sidmouth's vacant beach huts - Credit: Archant

Campaigners say outcome is ‘predictable’ but ‘sad’

An ‘outrageous’ hike in Sidmouth beach hut rental prices has hit the take-up rate – an outcome that has been branded ‘predictable’ but ‘sad’ by campaigners.

Once-lengthy waiting lists were exhausted for the first time in years as tenants – who will see costs almost double over two years - failed to renew their leases and East Devon District Council (EDDC) was forced to put up vacancy notices.

The authority confirmed early this week that 115 people out of 445 across East Devon decided not to keep their beach huts. It said a high number of vacancies could lead to a review of the charges.

An EDDC spokesperson confirmed the last vacancy in Sidmouth’s 24 huts was filled on Wednesday and added that the majority had gone to local residents – after fears had been expressed that townsfolk would be ‘priced out’.

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Those opposed to the price hike say things will only get worse next year, as a further increase will see Sidmouth rents rise to £1,002 in 2017/18. This is up from £732 in 2016/17 and £521.67 last year.

District councillor Marianne Rixson, ward member for Sidmouth/Sidford, said: “The slow take-up of beach huts in Sidmouth was predictable. At EDDC’s scrutiny meeting, I challenged this outrageous price hike. Previously there has been a waiting list, whereas this year the council has had to resort to adverts on the beach huts to encourage people to rent them. Next year, more desperate measures may well be called for. Despite justifiable opposition from both councillors and residents, EDDC refused to listen to common sense and this has been the result.”

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Anna Thompson formerly rented a beach hut at Jacob’s Ladder. She said: “I’m not at all surprised, but I do think it’s sad that people have been denied access to a once-popular resource because of an unrealistic budget decision by EDDC. Because I turned down my tenancy this year, even if they drop the price next year, I will have lost my place and will not be allowed back on the waiting list.”

An EDDC spokesperson said: “The number of beach hut tenants who have decided not to renew is 115 [out of a total of 445 across East Devon]. This equates to a retention rate of 76 per cent. We are currently working through our remaining waiting lists, which have been reopened for the first time in many years, to try and re-let the remaining vacant beach hut sites. If we exhaust this and still have vacant beach hut sites, we will advertise them.

“If, at the end of the year, we reach a position where we still have a high degree of vacant huts, a review of our charges will be undertaken. We will carry out consultation with town and parish councils progressively throughout this year.”

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