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Beach hut rents at Felixstowe could double in next few years under new management proposals

PUBLISHED: 11:58 29 November 2016

Angry beach hut owners protesting against beach hut and chalet rent rises at Felixstowe.

Angry beach hut owners protesting against beach hut and chalet rent rises at Felixstowe.

Archant

Seaside beach hut owners are being urged to attend a meeting next week which could approve radical changes to their leases and rent rises which will see fees almost double in the next eight years.

Felixstowe Beach Hut and Chalet Association said Suffolk Coastal’s cabinet on December 6 will consider what it fears will be “significant increases”.

The district council needs to generate more income to maintain its core services and the proposals it has drawn up for the management of its beach hut sites will increase income from £430,000 to £736,000 by 2025.

It has also set itself the task of creating 10% more huts sites at Felixstowe.

Three years ago when the council raised rents, there was a huge outcry – with protest marches along Felixstowe prom and the authority inundated with complaints.

Suffolk Coastal is expecting its proposals to be no less controversial this time around, especially as it is planning to make its decision before it meets with hut owners to discuss the plans.

Roy Gray, vice chairman of the hut and chalet association, said the group was “very disappointed” at the way the decision would be made.

He said: “The council said it would consult with us on the outcome of the review of huts and chalets. A meeting was arranged but then cancelled and now a fresh date has been arranged for December 16 – but by then they will have made their decision.”

Mr Gray said the association – which represents many of Felixstowe’s 900-plus hut owners – was not against all the council’s proposals and had suggested places where 20 to 40 new hut sites could be accommodated near Martello Park, and suggested work be done to activate sites where hut owners had not paid rent for some time.

However, he said the association was extremely concerned at the prospect of “significant increases” in rent and urged members to attend the cabinet meeting.

The council is also anticipating an unfavourable response to its proposals.

A report to cabinet said: “There is a risk that the increase in rent may cause disquiet among beach hut owners. Past experience indicates any increase in price will cause a certain amount of disquiet.

“If the increase to beach hut owners’ asset value and longer term security benefits unlocked as part of this process are communicated effectively, the justification for the increase should sell itself.”

The stepped rent increases will be part of new 10-year leases for the hut sites, which will replace annual agreements and give the hut owners greater security and increase the value of their huts – as it has done at resorts such as Southwold, where some huts sell for up to £100,000.

At present when a hut is sold at Felixstowe – usually for £10,000 to £21,000 – Suffolk Coastal only charges a £32.64 admin fee to terminate the former owner’s licence, and grant a new one to the hut owner. In future this would change to an assignment fee that equals three times the annual rent – possibly more than £2,000 by 2025.

The council also plans to buy its own huts to put on some sites and will charge what it claims will be a “reasonable market rate” for these – with rents between £718 and £1,105 depending on the site location.


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