Concern at beach huts price hike

PUBLISHED: 12:32 01 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:32 01 February 2016

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Residents in Budleigh Salterton have described beach hut price hikes planned for the next two years as 'excessive'.

The plots on Budleigh beach are set to cost nearly double what current owners are paying this season, according to East Devon District Council (EDDC), which owns 96 rental sites in the town.

EDDC currently charges a site cost of £244.14, before VAT. That price is due to rise to £319 for 2016/17 and then to £417 in 2017/18.

The proposed increases are set to be ratified next week and EDDC argues they will bring it ‘in line’ with current market prices.

EDDC last year axed plans to cancel all permanent hire agreements for beach huts from 2017 and scrap current waiting lists in a move that would have seen five-year lease agreements sold on the open market to the highest bidder.

Resident Victoria Robinson, who has rented a beach hut site in Budleigh for around 20 years, said the proposed increased is ‘excessive’.

She said: “I accept that the price was going to have to go up and we all knew that, but not to that level. It’s almost like saying it is our fault for not going down the auction route. If we went down that route, it would be an awful mess.”

Mayor Courtney Richards believes that the rise is a ‘substantial increase’ on what people are currently paying.

He said: “I find the increase in such a short period of time to be very excessive.

“If that is what is needed to bring it in line with market prices, then East Devon District Council should have looked at this much earlier. People will be asked to pay a lot of money for something they are only going to use for six months of the year.”

Speaking at a recent meeting, district councillor Tom Wright suggested it might be time for towns like Budleigh to take control of their beach huts.

He said: “I think, if these beach huts come into the control of local settlements like the towns who are more in tune with their local community, it might be a better situation for all concerned.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “Beach huts are an incredibly important asset to our seaside communities and so the council worked very carefully to make sure that people were consulted on any proposed changes. Beach hut users, people on the beach huts waiting list and others gave the council clear views on options to manage the future use of the service - and the council listened to what they had to say. These options included renting the huts on fixed five-year leases or auction/sealed bids to establish open market charges. The council will be holding discussions with other seaside town and parish councils to understand what they think are the best local solutions and how they might want to take responsibility for some of the huts.

“Following the outcome of the consultation, cabinet also agreed last October that standard hire charges be increased with the aim of achieving open market rates in the future. The council’s hire fees are currently very low and increased charges have been benchmarked with other local authorities. A great deal of work has been carried out to ensure these increases are a fair reflection of the market. The final fees will be not be confirmed until early next week as they are still going through the approval process.”

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