Anger over beach hut bidding wars

PUBLISHED: 06:30 29 June 2015

Disgruntled Budleigh Salterton beach huts owners and users this week. Ref exb 1709-25-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Disgruntled Budleigh Salterton beach huts owners and users this week. Ref exb 1709-25-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Archant

Plans to auction off Budleigh's beach huts to the highest bidder have been opposed by civic leaders, amid an outcry from hut owners.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is consulting on proposed changes to how it operates its huts and hut sites, which could see existing tenancies ended, and waiting lists scrapped, with new five-year leases auctioned off, and only tenants who have had a hut for four years or less able to apply for a five-year extension. At this week’s Budleigh Salterton Town Council meeting, where the proposals were discussed, councillors heard from hut owner Jeremy Robinson, who said a meeting of around 80 hut owners had seen several concerns raised.

Town and district councillor Steve Hall said he was hopeful that a new portfolio holder responsible for the matter would look at the scheme again, but added: “I totally object to the idea that anything goes to the highest bidder.”

Town mayor Courtney Richards said the proposals were ‘confusing’, adding: “I don’t like favouring the highest bidder. I propose we write back to East Devon favouring the status quo, but awaiting a better consultation document.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Robinson said the wording of questions in the consultation had made it seem like a ‘fait accompli’, and hut owners had submitted several Freedom of Information requests to gain more information. He was also concerned that there seemed to be nothing to stop commercial entities bidding, and added that the beach huts in Budleigh were currently the most profitable in East Devon, earning the council £34,000 a year.

EDDC says its proposals would give people barred by the current, long waiting list the chance to bid for a hut, and also allow it to save money.

But both current hut owners and those on the waiting list have raised concerns.

Diana Tremlett, who has had a hut on the same site for 30 years, said: “We use it a lot, because it’s part of our life. We know all the people along here and we can see that this new idea that’s been put forward will not make it any better for anybody.

“People are going to be priced out of the market. Ordinary Budleigh families would be priced out.”

Mike Trick, who has been on the waiting list for seven years, said: “I just think it’s appalling. It has been a waste of time. You sit on the waiting list and the council just turns round and says it matters not whether you have had a hut as long as you can bid the highest.”

● What do readers think? Email exmouth.letters@archant.co.uk

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