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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Souped-up beach huts: why councils are clamping down on blingy renovations | Travel

Name: Souped-up beach huts.

Age: While the earliest examples were converted fisher’s huts or old bathing machines, the first purpose-built beach hut was erected in Bournemouth in 1909. (It got a blue plaque in 2011.)

Appearance: Tiny seafront houses, but blingy.

How would you go about making a beach hut blingy? By improving the hut through extravagant or excessive renovation, obviously.

Like what? A golden toilet? Oh no. Toilets aren’t permitted.

What then? An illuminated dancefloor? Some artificial grass on the balcony, perhaps, or some brightly painted decking.

Then what? Once you’ve souped it up, you can rent it out – fancy huts on the Essex coast, for example, are offered for hire by the day for parties.

And the council is OK with that? No. Extending the huts beyond strict specifications is not allowed, and renting them out is banned.

So these people are living off the spoils of their illegally rented sheds?They might not be getting rich, but they’re doing all right: beach huts in Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex and Southwold in Suffolk typically claim rental fees of between £50 and £100 a day, and change hands for tens of thousands of pounds.

What is the council doing about it? Up until now, not much. Beach-hut hire websites have sprung up – alongside management, cleaning and catering services – offering owners the chance to cash in.

I sense a crackdown is coming. You are correct. Tendring district council, which issues annual licences for 3,000 hut sites in Essex, recently contacted private owners.

A sternly worded letter? Exactly. It concerns “beach hut adaptations which fall outside of the existing specification” and reminds owners that when their huts come to be sold, the council can deny the new owner a licence until any non-compliant modifications are rectified.

You mean the hut would have to be unmodified? Quite possibly. The letter adds that under the rules renting is not permitted. “The existing licence is for personal use only,” said a council member.

And what do the hut dealers – sorry, owners – say to that? Some have got up a petition against the crackdown, insisting that the council has changed its stance.

Meaning it’s stopped turning a blind eye. But other owners complain of noise and rowdy behaviour at hired huts. “It can become tiresome if you face this repeatedly because your beach hut is close to one that is frequently let out in this way,” said the Brightlingsea Beach Hut Association’s spring newsletter.

Do say: “Rules are rules.”

Don’t say: “Drinks on the artificial lawn.”

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