Canterbury City Council is seeking views on future charging arrangements for beach huts. Ongoing tenancy negotiations with Beach Hut Owners’ Associations prompted the council to seek external legal advice on its position. As a result, a number of changes are being made to beach hut tenancies and the associated fees.
The council’s barrister provided very clear legal advice that it is obliged to run its beach huts on a commercial basis and charge a market rent at the earliest opportunity – which is when the new tenancy agreement comes in to effect on 1 April 2014. Otherwise the council would not be acting in the best interest of general tax payers living in the district.
Operating commercially means that the council can no longer offer a reduced rate to residents of Canterbury district compared to non-residents, or offer the long term discount to owners who have had a hut for more than 15 years.
The council must also stop charging hut owners a ‘supplementary rental fee’ of five times annual rent should they sell their hut. This had been applied to try and keep annual rents down. However, instead of applying this charge (of anywhere between £1,380 and £1,840), the council will now only charge an administration fee of £463 to hut vendors to cover staff costs.
To ensure that the market rent is set fairly and independently, the council appointed an external valuation office to make that assessment. This work was carried out for the council by DVS, who operate on behalf of HM Customs and Revenue and who used rent levels at over 50 other comparative sites, amongst other information, to calculate the market value.
The current 2013/14 fees are £276 in Herne Bay and £368 in Tankerton per year. Subletting is not currently allowed and the cost of selling a hut is between £1380 and £1840.
DVS have advised that for 2013/14, the annual market rent for Herne Bay should be £475 and Tankerton should be £650 – payable by all hut owners. If subletting is allowed, the market rent increases by 20%. However, the cost of selling a hut would be reduced to £463.
The council is aware that the annual increases will be difficult for some beach hut owners. To help make this easier, the council is considering applying the move to market rents over the maximum acceptable period of two years – views on this are being sought as part of the consultation.
The consultation is also asking for views on the market rent set by DVS and whether sub-letting should be allowed or not. The matter will be considered by the Overview and Executive committees in December.
Chief Executive Colin Carmichael said:
“Having received the barrister’s clear advice, the council has a statutory duty to comply.”
Executive member for foreshore services, Cllr Peter Vickery-Jones, said:
“I am genuinely unhappy that we are having to put these proposals forward. We are mindful of how difficult this will be for some beach hut owners and we have done our level best to lessen the impact as much as possible.
However, we are obliged to take note of the advice given and I hope that owners will understand our position. I am keenly interested to hear responses to the consultation and these will be seriously considered in our debate.”
More information and details about how to respond to the consultation can be found HERE.