Monday, February 17, 2014
Budleigh beach hut owners and residents are saying ‘hate to say we told you so’ to district bosses after huts left out for winter were damaged by storms.
Previously, East Devon District Council (EDDC) rented out beach huts and hut sites during the summer tourist season, which were then removed for winter.
However, this year, EDDC changed its rental agreements to cover all 12 months of the year – with an associated hike in fees making the council around £20,000 in extra revenue.
The council says it took its decision after requests from hut owners, but critics say the move was designed to raise revenue - and has now backfired.
N and C Rogers wrote to the Journal this week to say: “As long-time beach hut owners, we warned EDDC of damage during winter storms and this came to pass on February 4 and 5.
“We took our beach hut down for the winter as per usual and are pleased we did in view of the damage sustained, but were still forced to pay an extra £122 for the privilege of retaining the plot for the whole year.
“The huts being allowed to stay up is nothing more than an increased income-raising exercise by EDDC - and the owners received no extra service.”
Otter Valley Association (OVA) chairman Nicola Daniel said that the OVA had previously warned EDDC that there had been seven storms since the 1970s of sufficient severity to wreck huts. She said: “Sadly, our warnings have been proved soundly based all too soon.
“Bad decisions have been taken, in the face of well-founded advice, with cost consequences for both beach hut owners and the ratepayers. These costs are avoidable.”
Mrs Daniel added that the OVA was still waiting for EDDC to submit a planning application for year-round huts, which the council acknowledged was needed in October last year.
In response to the criticism, an EDDC spokesman said its decision had been carefully considered, and admitted raising revenue was a factor, but said the council had been caught out by unprecedented weather.
The spokesman said: “Hut owners’ concerns were not ignored and, where we received letters or emails, we responded.
“We considered the risk of damage during the winter and, after weighing it against the savings we would make from erecting and dismantling the huts, concluded that the risk was acceptable.
“In previous years, huts have been damaged in the summer and in other years huts have been left in situ year round (Steamer Steps) and suffered no damage.
“We felt the beach at Budleigh had established sufficiently to offer the huts a degree of protection. What we, like many others in the region and further afield, did not account for was the worst storms in 25 years.
“The reason for extending the season was partly in response to repeated requests from some hut tenants to extend the season, but it was also seen as a way to help increase revenue from our assets.”
The spokesman added that ratepayers would not have to pay for hut repairs, as this would be covered by insurance and also the savings from not dismantling huts, and said submission of the awaited planning application was ‘imminent’.