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Fury at plan to cap leases of beach hut

Here we go again – the vexed and thorny issue of beach huts: private pleasure on public land. It would be so much simpler if all beach huts on public land were Council-owned and Council-managed, and rented for a maximum of a year at a time with shorter term and seasonal lets available. If demand outstrips supply, the Council should gradually increase the charges until demand matches supply – a commercially sensible approach to its public responsibility to maximise the revenue from its assets.

City councillors are threatening to limit beach hut owners to a 30-year lease. Owners say the proposals would knock down prices and stop them from passing the huts on to their children. Some have stayed in families for more than 50 years. One Tankerton owner and barrister has waived her normal fees to help block the proposals.

The news leaked out during a meeting of the Tankerton Bay Beach
Hut Owners Association annual meeting. It is estimated it could affect
300 hut owners in Whitstable and Herne Bay.

The city council wants to force beach hut owners to move out
after a maximum of 30 years. At the moment, leases can he renewed every
year. Under new proposals the lease would be renewed every six years
for a maximum of 30 years. After that, owners would have to remove their
huts from the beach or sell them.

The council also wants to levy a £1,300 fee if the huts are sold
and charge owners £1,260 if owners let out their huts in the summer. Huts in Tankerton fetch about £20,000. Six huts currently listed
for sale on website beach-huts.com range from £17,000 to £25,000.

Pensioner John Richardson, 77, from Saddleton Road, Whitstable,

“I think the proposals are unlawful. We already have a lease. That
can’t be overwritten. These proposals would mean that for the last ten years of the lease owners won’t bother looking after their huts. Tankerton will end up with lots of derelict huts. It will lose its charm. Individual hut owners look after their huts and give them characteristics that add to Whitstable’s charm.”

Marilyn Richards, secretary of the Tankerton Bay Beach Hut Owners
Association, remained tight-lipped:

“I can only say at this
point that we are in ongoing discussions with Canterbury City Council
about our hut ownership.”

But Alan Ratford, chairman of Herne Bay Beach Hut Owners Association, said opposition was unanimous:

“At the moment I can sell my hut without restriction. If
there is a 30-year cap, then the value of the hut will decrease. It’s
not a problem today but It will be tomorrow. We co-operate very well with the council but this is a major stumbling block.”

Deborah Hickman, who runs Tiddly Pomme in Brogdale Market Place, Faversham, sold their beach hut three years ago for £20,000. She said:

“We are happy we sold when we did. The huts are a real money-spinner for Canterbury City Council. But it keeps wanting to add more. This proposal seems really
greedy. For the people who have bought in the past ten years when prices
shot up, it is horrendously unfair. It is a privilege to have a beach hut but it cost us £1,000 a year to keep ours. You can’t just sit on it to make a fortune.”

City council spokesman Steve James said:

“The council is engaging in confidential conversations with beach hut owners. The finite lease is merely speculation. No conclusions have been reached.”

Whitstable Times 13th Dec 2012

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