Proposals for beach huts 'threaten a way of life'

PUBLISHED: 16:30 09 June 2015

Possible location of beach huts at Sidmouth. Ref shs 5466-03-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Possible location of beach huts at Sidmouth. Ref shs 5466-03-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Archant

Proposals to terminate existing contracts and offer Sidmouth's 24 beach huts to the highest bidder have been slammed as 'elitist' and a 'threat to a way of life'.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) also plans to add 10 new huts on Chit Rocks – a move previously panned by residents as ‘commercialisation of the seafront’ – and to upgrade the Jacob’s Ladder huts. It is consulting with current tenants on the proposals.

The authority says the move will help it cut costs, slash a 10-year waiting list for the properties along its coastline and improve fairness.

But Tom Griffiths, who ran the Sidmouth beach hut concession for many years, said axing all the contracts will come as a concern to regular users.

“I think it’s appalling,” he said. “A lot of them are taken by grandparents who use them for two-weeks-a-year when their grandchildren come to visit. The rest of the time they stayed empty.

“[These proposals] will mean they go to people wealthy enough to do just that.

“A lot of the users are regulars – if you stop them coming down it’ll kill them off.”

Mr Griffiths has previously called for the existing beach huts on the west beach to be made two-storey, which would double the number available.

Sidmouth currently has an eight-year waiting list, which EDDC said justified the need for another 10 huts near the Millennium Walkway.

Mr Griffiths warned that, if approved, these could block the path of the lifeboat and would be likely to be washed out in a storm.

Residents have also taken to the Herald’s Facebook page to give their reaction.

Kathy Quinn posted: “Again the wealthiest win.”

Anna Thompson said: “This is a disgraceful stance and is just going to make our lovely beach huts another elitist privilege for the better off – I would encourage people to write to EDDC and their councillors to object.”

Under the proposals, EDDC will offer five-year leases on the open market, for which anyone will have the chance to bid, including current lease holders.

The successful bidders will be able to rent the beach hut, beach hut site or beach chalet concerned for five years.

After this period, another five-year lease for the site will be offered on the open market.

An exception will be if the current lease holder has had their beach hut site for four years or less.

EDDC’s huts cost £625 for a season and, on top of this, occupants will also be liable for up to £90 in business rates under the new plans.

The consultation, open until July 13, can be found at www.eastdevon.gov.uk/consultation-and-surveys/beach-huts-service.

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