“Tell us what you think” - East Devon asks public for opinion on proposed changes to its beach huts service

Fans of East Devon’s beach huts encouraged to give their views about new lease arrangements

As part of councillors’ recommendations to implement an extensive improvement and management programme for its beach huts (a decision that was made by Cabinet in January 2015), the council is inviting everyone to have their say on proposals for the future of beach huts, beach hut sites and beach chalets by responding to its online questionnaire before Monday 13 July.

Beach huts form a popular part of East Devon’s coastal heritage and the district council is responsible for managing and maintaining 237 of them, together with 20 beach chalets and 241 beach hut sites in Budleigh Salterton, Seaton West, Seaton East, Beer, Sidmouth and Exmouth.

People who already either hire or are on the waiting list to hire a beach hut, beach hut site or beach chalet will receive a copy of the proposals and questionnaire shortly in the post. The deadline for paper responses is also Monday 13 July.

It’s important for the council to know what hirers and potential hirers think about the proposed changes and how they would be affected by them. The recommended changes will not take place until 2016, which gives us time to carry out this consultation and to give the changes proper consideration.

Questionnaire

The questionnaire is short and asks questions such as:

  • How would you prefer to bid for a beach hut/beach hut site/chalet?
  • Do you think that having to bid for a beach hut, beach hut site or beach chalet would have any positive or negative impacts on you?
  • What suggestions do you have to improve the current proposals?
  • If you would like a beach hut, beach hut site or chalet, where would you like it to be, even if you aren’t on a waiting list?

Why the changes?

  1. East Devon is looking for better ways to give a wider number of people the opportunity to lease a beach hut/chalet/beach hut site. At present the council has over 300 people on its waiting lists – most of the lists are so long that they are now closed to new applicants.
  2. Government funding cuts have affected all district council services, forcing them to find money elsewhere. This is why East Devon is looking at ways to get the most out of assets such as its beach huts, beach hut sites and beach chalets. The council doesn’t have to provide this service, but it knows how much it means to residents and visitors. This is why more cost effective ways must be found to administer it. At present, some of the costs are being absorbed by council tax payers, so they are subsidizing the beach huts, chalets and beach hut sites. The council wants to ensure that public money is well spent and if it can collect more money from this enterprise than it costs to provide, then this income can be reinvested in making improvements.

Main change

The main change that the council is proposing to make is to end all existing hire agreements for beach huts, beach hut sites and beach chalets that it owns and manages. Instead, five-year leases will then be offered on the open market and anyone will have the chance to bid, including current hirers. The successful bidders will be able to rent the beach hut/beach hut site/beach chalet for five years. After this period, another five-year lease for the site will be offered on the open market.

An exception to this will be if the current hirer has had their beach hut site for four years or less. If this is the case, they have the option of signing up for a five-year lease without going to auction. When their five-year lease is at an end, another five-year lease will be offered on the open market.

Further information about other proposed changes to the sites can also be found online.

An East Devon District Council spokesperson said:

We think it is only fair that everyone - from East Devon residents to visitors – should have the opportunity to hire a beach hut, site or chalet. This consultation is a great opportunity for people to give us their views on the service they would like to receive from us.

It’s time that this special service, which we offer, becomes a viable self-supporting asset and not a burden of luxury. We strongly believe that these changes are for the better, so please let us know what you think.

Additional changes proposed at beach hut locations in Budleigh Salterton and Seaton West, Seaton East and Beer, Sidmouth and Exmouth.

Budleigh Salterton and Seaton West

Budleigh Salterton has 49 beach huts, which we hire out for between £531 and £588 per season, plus 93 sites we hire out without the huts for £293 per season. Huts have to be put up at the start of the season and taken down at the end. At present, Seaton West has 31 beach huts, which we hire out at £588 per season, plus 50 sites that we hire out without the hut for £293 per season. Again huts have to be put up at the start of the season and taken down at the end.

Our proposal for what would happen by April 2016 (in addition to our overall changes):

  • We will lease out the sites for the huts but not the huts themselves. It will be up to the person leasing the site to purchase and look after the hut. The person leasing the site will also have to put up the hut at the beginning of the season and take it down and store it at the end of the season. There are contractors that will do this for a charge of up to about £220. Currently, 93 of our beach hut sites in Budleigh Salterton and 50 of our beach hut sites in Seaton West have this arrangement where the site is rented out but not the hut; so it is not a new concept. The colour, design and size of the beach huts will be specified in the lease.
  • People leasing the sites that previously housed beach huts will be given the option of purchasing the hut that is currently allocated to their site for a one-off charge of about £250. • Non-domestic rates will be paid by the occupiers of the beach huts rather than by the council. This will be vary from year to year but in 2014/ 2015 was between £21 and £90 for a year.

Seaton East and Beer

Seaton East has 42 sites, which we hire out for £293 a season. Huts have to be put up at the start of the season and taken down at the end. Beer has 56 sites only that we hire out for between £379 and £536. The beach huts on these can also stay up all year round.

Our proposal for what would happen by April 2016 (in addition to our overall changes):

  • Non-domestic rates will be paid by the occupiers of the beach huts rather than by the council. This will be vary from year to year but in 2014/ 2015 was between £21 and £90 for the year.

Sidmouth

There are 24 beach huts in Sidmouth that we hire out for £625 a season. These beach huts stay in place all year round.

Our proposal for what would happen by April 2016 (in addition to our overall changes):

  • Non domestic rates will be paid by the occupiers of the beach huts rather than by the council. This will be vary from year to year but in 2014/ 2015 was between £21 and £90 for the year.
  • The beach huts at Jacob’s Ladder are reaching the end of their life. We will look to replace them with improved huts of a better style and design for the location, subject to planning permission.
  • There is considerable demand for beach huts in Sidmouth which cannot currently be met. We will also look into the feasibility of providing an additional ten huts between the end of the Esplanade and Chit Rocks, subject to planning permission, viability assessment and consultation with local residents.

Exmouth – beach huts

There are 117 brick built beach huts in Exmouth that we hire out for £663 a season. These beach huts stay in place all year round. These have the lowest level of demand. Some of the existing huts will be removed as part of future seafront developments in Exmouth. For example, 37 huts will be removed due to the Queen’s Drive development scheme, which will bring a watersports centre and other attractions to Exmouth.

Our proposal for what would happen by April 2016 (in addition to our overall changes):

  • Leaseholders will only be responsible for internal repairs and maintenance of the hut. As these are brick built huts we would remain responsible for external repairs and maintenance.
  • Non-domestic rates will be paid by the occupiers of the beach huts rather than by the council. This will be vary from year to year but in 2014/ 2015 was between £21 and £90 for the year.

Exmouth chalets

There are 20 brick built larger beach chalets in Exmouth that we hire out for £1,253 a season. They already pay their own non-domestic rates.

  • No other changes are proposed for these beach chalets apart from our main change.