Suffolk Coastal is to ask for people’s views on a sweeping review of how beach hut services are run in the district.
The comprehensive review of the beach hut service was carried out to examine how the portfolio currently operates, to identify any service efficiencies and to consider further income generation opportunities.
The review was launched in support of the current East Suffolk Business Plan, which contains the specific action to ‘Increase the number of beach huts provided in the District by at least 10%’.
The two main drivers of the beach hut review are to increase equality by increasing the opportunities for residents to have access to a beach hut, while also maximising the income generated from this resource to invest in core services, thus reducing the burden on the Suffolk Coastal tax payer.
At its meeting on Tuesday, 6 December, Cabinet noted the report, which recommends:
And Cabinet decided the issue will now go out for consultation next year, with a six-week consultation being launched from Tuesday, 3 January, 2017.
“The reality is that we have some tough decisions to make at Suffolk Coastal District Council,”
said Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Economic Development.
"We are faced with dwindling financial support from central Government. In order to maintain our services, while protecting the local tax payer, we need to increase the amount of income we generate.
We need to maximise the income generated from this valuable resource, to invest in core services and reduce to the burden on the Suffolk Coastal tax payer.
However, this was the first opportunity that Cabinet had to discuss the report and its recommended way forward. After some discussion, we felt we needed to hear what other people have to say about the proposals, in a structured way, before making any final decisions.
So we intend to carry out a six-week consultation exercise on the proposals to convert all the current site licences into longer term leases and the proposed charges. A further report will then be brought back to Cabinet, following the consultation,”
explained Cllr Holdcroft.
The beach hut portfolio recorded a net income of £364k in 2015/16. If all three of the review’s recommendations were to be implemented, the annual income generated would increase from £430k to £736k in 2024/25, an increase of £306k over the 8 year period.
“We believe the beach hut licences in Suffolk Coastal will continue to provide excellent value for money and, if they are adopted, these adjustments would bring the costs up to a realistic market value,” explained Cllr Holdcroft.
"We are also committed to making beach huts more accessible to a wider range of people. We are looking to create up to 100 new beach hut sites, which will be leased or rented out, so many more people will be able to enjoy the beach hut experience, even if it is just for a day, week or a year!”
Suffolk Coastal owns 918 beach hut sites in Felixstowe and Sizewell, with the vast majority (over 900) being in Felixstowe. Currently, each owner gets an annual licence for their site, which has to be renewed each year (creating a very bureaucratic system).
The proposed new system aims to give owners greater security, by providing them with a 10-year commitment, broken down into two phases.
The current licences expire on the 31st March 2017. It is suggested that next year, the beach hut owners will get a new licence (as they have in previous years), at an increased cost of about £40 (or 10%) on average.
Then the proposal is to move the beach hut owners across to a new 9-year lease, from 1 April 2018 (so running until 31st March 2027).
The review also recommends implementing a ‘licence premium’ to be paid on all new sites. Existing beach hut owners will only pay this when they come to renew their leases (in 2027) – so existing beach hut owners will not have to pay a lease premium for 10 years.
This lease would give the beach hut owners greater long-term security and should add value, if they choose to sell on their beach hut (and the site it is on).