Sidmouth beach hut owners taking tourists for granted

Tom Griffiths

Tom Griffiths - Credit: Archant

Beach hut bosses have been accused of taking Sidmouth’s tourists for granted by the man who rented out the seafront properties for 25 years.

Tom Griffiths said holidaymakers, some of whom have been coming for seven decades, have been left heartbroken by a new system that only allows long-term lets.

His customers came from within the town as well as across the country.

Denise Saunders’ family have been visiting Sidmouth since the 1940s, and this year’s holiday would have seen five generations converge on the town.

But she says her mother and father - who have been coming down since they were teenagers - will not be able to join them because they rely on the huts when visiting the beach.

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“There were 21 of us last year, it was a real family affair,” said Denise, who lives in Tottenham, London.

“But there’s no way my parents could come without a beach hut – it breaks our hearts.”

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Another of Tom’s regulars was Sidmouth resident Diane Smith, who rents a hut because she has a back condition that means she can’t walk on the pebbly beach.

“When Tom was in charge, things ran immaculately,” she said.

“Beach huts are why a lot of people come to Sidmouth – now they say they will never come back.”

Tom claims he would not have retired when he did, in 2011, but his franchise was not renewed (see his letter on page 10).

Through long- and short-term renting, Tom used to get around £1,000 per hut for the season, but now East Devon District Council (EDDC) is charging around £600 for the April 1 to September 30 period.

He said only having long-term rents will mean many huts remain empty for much of the summer.

“Unfortunately the council doesn’t realise Sidmouth has a tourist season,” he added.

An EDDC spokesman said: “When Mr Griffiths indicated he would be giving up the concession, the council advertised the opportunity but there was no take-up.

He said it was not as profitable for a large organisation to run the beach huts in the same way as an individual as they require a full-time presence on the seafront.

The council proposes replacing the 24 existing huts with 22 new and improved units for the 2014/15 season.

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