Are colourful beach huts not on?

IT'S a bright new world for Felixstowe's beach hut owners, who are splashing out with a bit of colour to give their cherished "shallies" some seaside sparkle.

By Richard Cornwell

IT'S a bright new world for Felixstowe's beach hut owners, who are splashing out with a bit of colour to give their cherished "shallies" some seaside sparkle.

GONE are the days when the rows of wooden huts had dull pastel shades, and IN have come lipstick pinks, garish greens and livid lemons.

But council officials have warned that their policy has not changed, though there is an indication that they are becoming a little more tolerant.

Owners of the huts could still be told to repaint and cover up on the seafront if they overstep the mark and become too brash, but so far the new flexible attitude of the authority seems to be working.

There has long been a debate over whether the huts should be dull as ditchwater or bright and breezy, like a breath of sea air, a colourful and fun attraction.

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It was argued that Felixstowe isn't a Brighton, Blackpool or Yarmouth. It's a bit more refined and sedate.

But others said the sight of such non-descript colours made it look down at heel and the huts should be all bright and beautiful.

There was an outcry from both sides of the fence when Frances Friel and her family fell foul of the rules and painted their hut in Undercliff Road East with an attractive and colourful seaside mural with a boat, pier, fish, and sunshine.

They were told to paint the hut a regulation colour or face having it removed from the beach.

This spring, a number of owners of the huts havedecided to spruce them up with brighter colours.

There are lurid turquoises, aquamarines, banana yellows, vivid oranges, navy blues, lilac, liver browns, sapphires, apricots, ochres, daffodil and lemons, jungle greens . . . almost every part of the spectrum.

But a spokeswoman for Suffolk Coastal council said the authority's policy had not changed and the huts should be a pastel shade from an approved list.

However, the council now allows woodstain, gloss and dark green to be used and has adopted a more relaxed attitude, though any particularly bright or outrageously coloured hut would be inspected and a decision made on its suitability.

Tourism officers, who do not inspect the huts regularly, say very bright or glossy ones have often faded and weathered to near enough the right colours.

However, if during an inspection a hut is found to be an illegal hue, the council will write to the owners to tell them and ask them to fall in line with the colours permitted.

It says this is "a sensible approach and not heavy handed".

The idea of pastel colours is that the huts will blend into the landscape, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb.

But the council draws the line when it comes to designs, murals and words – these are not permitted at all.

A couple from Ipswich, who own a beach hut on Undercliff Road East but declined to be named, said they would like more lee-way when painting their hut but do not appreciate "shallies" which are painted outrageous colours.

The Ipswich pensioners' tastefully decorated white and pastel yellow beach hut was close to another new one, which had been stained dark blue.

The man said: "If we put a dark colour on they tell us to keep it off. I feel like phoning her. It is pretty awful workmanship.

"I suppose really they have got to have some rules. In the end there will be so many different colours it does look a lot better when they are the same."

Alan Barker, who lives near the beach huts on Brook Lane, said: "I think they should be in pastel colours. Cerise is offensive, it doesn't fit in."

* What do you think? Is the sea front in need of colour…or not? Write with your views to Your Letters at Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or email or fax 01473 225296.