Beach hut owners furious after council demands they tear down £1m huts

Beach hut owners are left furious after ‘crass and unsympathetic’ council orders them to tear down the £1m wooden huts after storms washed away the shingle beach but refuses to award any compensation

  • The 20 huts in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, were left inaccessible after storms
  • The council has previously replaced pebbles but last year refused, starting a row
  • Now New Forest District Council has condemned the unstable teetering huts
  • Owners of huts, which cost upto £50,000, pay £300,000 a year rent to council

The owners of a row of beach huts worth almost £1m have been left dismayed and furious after the huts were condemned overnight due to health and safety fears.

The 20 huts, which can change hands for more than £50,000, have been left almost inaccessible at the top of a 12-foot wall of shingle after the local council refused to replenish stones washed away by storms in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire. 

Now their owners have received what they describe as a ‘crass and unsympathetic’ town hall edict ordering them to demolish the 20 wooden cabins which are now at risk of toppling over.

The owners, who between them pay £300,000 every year in ground rent to New Forest District Council for their wooden huts, demanded after a storm last May that the shingle be replaced.

Hut owner have pleaded with the council to replace the shingle as they have in previous years but New Forest District Council has refused – and has now condemned the row of 20 properties each of which can cost as much as £50,000

The gap where beach huts numbers 260 and 261 once stood, now leaving the ones either side still perched on the edge of the eroding shingle

Teaching assistant Tracey Mead has owned her 11ft by 9ft blue cabin with her father, Graham Watling, since 2010. Last year she appealed to the council to replenish the shingle

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But instead of replenishing the stones as they have done before, New Forest District Council has adopted a ‘do nothing’ policy and are now accused of having ‘abandoned’ the privately-owned huts.

The furious owners will not receive any compensation for their properties.

Officials have now closed off the section of beach at Milford-on-Sea, Hants, and have written to the owners instructing them to remove the ‘dangerous’ structures.

Four of the owners have been given just seven days to get rid of their properties.

One couple spent £23,000 on buying a ‘dream’ hut that has been made worthless overnight. Another owner faces losing their hut after owning it for 35 years.

Hollie Gates said: ‘We’ve had our hut for over 20 years and were told to take it down.

‘We’ve had no warning, no compensation and no discussions about this, it’s just been thrust upon us.

The council has cordoned off the area and instructed hut owners to demolish their properties

Council officials fear the huts will topple forward and pose a health and safety hazard

The huts are now inaccessible from all sides as the health and safety cordon is in place

‘The council used to get big diggers in every year and move shingle from the other end of the beach but they now adopt a ‘do nothing’ policy which has ended up in people losing their beach huts.

‘A lot of us spent our childhoods down there so it’s not just the money, it’s a way of life. It is heartbreaking.’

The owner of another hut, who did not want to be named, blasted the council for a lack of compassion.

He said: ‘The council’s response to the situation has been woeful in terms of a complete lack of empathy for the affected beach hut owners.

‘Many owners are faced with losing everything and many are not wealthy people. Some are retired and have invested significant savings in the dream of a beach hut by the sea.

‘The crassly worded and bureaucratic communications from the council including the latest demands to remove huts within tight deadlines have caused great upset which is completely unnecessary.

‘The handling of this situation has been a shocking example of the worst type of local council aloof behaviour.’

Tracey Mead said last year that her hut had become inaccessible and was ‘teetering’

Last year after the storm teaching assistant Tracey Mead, 54, explained: ‘The huts are now teetering on the edge of a mini cliff face. You literally cannot get into your hut unless you have a ladder.

‘The drop outside my hut is between 8ft to 10ft and is very steep incline and every time you try and take a step you just drag more shingle down making the problem worse.

‘We have asked the council to help by replenishing the bank and building a new sea wall but they have refused as it is too costly.’

Yesterday on Facebook one owner posted: ‘We bought our hut with money inherited and were very much looking forward to using it in our retirement.

‘Here we are 17 months after spending quite a considerable amount of money buying our hut, kitting it our and redecorating and we’re left with nothing..’

The beach huts are worth between £20,000 to £55,000 each and in total the owners pay around £300,000 a year in rent and fees to the council.

A spokesman for Conservative-run New Forest District Council said they had taken the decision to ‘ensure the safety of anyone in the area’.

They said: ‘Our coastal team have been regularly monitoring the beach and huts following the recent and significant changes that have taken place as a result of the dynamic beach conditions.

‘This has been done to enable us to inform beach hut owners of the changing conditions and to ensure the safety of anyone in the area.

‘The stability of the huts is now deemed to be a significant risk and, due to the reduction in width of the beach and the unstable ground conditions, we have closed an area of the beach.

‘We have also notified owners of those huts affected that they need to remove them due to the safety concerns raised by both our coastal and building control teams.

‘Whilst we of course sympathise with the people who have huts, we have never given any assurances that the site would remain suitable for the purposes for which the licence was granted.’


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