After a year long battle to prevent proposed huge increases in their rents and changing of the way licenses are administered – SCDC has caved in to demands of the beach hut owners of Felixstowe. But there will be some changes – and punitive charges for new owners.
At its Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 5 September 2017, Suffolk Coastal agreed a series of recommendations, including retaining the licence system for its existing beach hut sites (rather than moving across to offering long-term leases).
However, the licences will be issued for a three-year period from next year (2018/19) and the charging system is to be simplified into a two-tier system to reduce the bureaucracy and administration costs of running the service.
This replaces the existing system, where beach hut owners are issued with annual licences and there are 14 different tariffs in place.
“This has been a long and difficult road for us, as a council. The original intent of the review was to simplify the way this service is delivered, while also looking to cover our costs and make a reasonable surplus to re-invest into providing frontline services and contribute towards keeping council tax down in the District,” said Cllr TJ Haworth-Culf, Suffolk Coastal’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Customers, Communities and Leisure.
“However, when the proposals originally came to Cabinet in December 2016, we recognised that there was a need to make sure we took the views of the public, especially the beach hut owners, into account before implementing any changes.”
“I am pleased that we have now reached the position where there will be far less bureaucracy, the beach hut owners will have longer-term security and we will have an incremental increase in charges, which will help towards Suffolk Coastal being able to continue to invest heavily in providing better facilities in Felixstowe and across the District.”
For full details of the review findings, please see the report at: http://apps.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/committeeminutes/showagenda.asp?id=22394
The decisions made by Cabinet were:
The 916 existing beach hut sites in Felixstowe and Sizewell will be kept on a licence system;
A 3-year licence should be issued (covering from 1 April 2018 until 31 March 2021) to existing beach hut site owners, to provide certainty to beach hut owners and cut down on the administrative burden/cost of issuing licences annually;
The current system of licence fees is streamlined into a two-tier system, defined as Premium and Standard, based on front row (premium) and non front row (standard), with the fees for 2018/19 being set at £500 (inc VAT) for Premium sites and £400 (inc VAT) for Standard sites;
An additional two-tier charge will be created for the additional square meterage of oversized huts;
A 10% increase in all of these fees will be applied to Years 2 and 3 of the licence, and then reviewed;
A set administration fee for issuing new licences be charged at £600 (inc VAT), to address full cost recovery of the administration process for issuing a licence
Beach hut owners wanting to transfer ownership of their huts to an immediate family member (whether while living or as a bequeath) can apply for a discounted fee of £120 (inc VAT); and
New sites (not infill areas) will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a licence or lease approach is the most advantageous and practical, as they are developed
Background – Beach Hut Review:
A review of the beach hut and chalet service provided by Suffolk Coastal District Council was originally carried out in 2016.
In line with the East Suffolk Business Plan, this review aimed to gain a better understanding of the service, including identifying any potential service efficiency gains and development opportunities.
The review report was taken to Suffolk Coastal Cabinet on the 6th December 2016, where it was agreed that no decision could be taken on the key recommendations, until public consultation had been carried out.
This consultation was carried out at the beginning of 2017 and the results informed the drafting of the new report, with amended recommendations, which was considered by Suffolk Coastal’s Cabinet on Tuesday, 5 September 2017.
These recommendations have been the subject of ongoing consultation over summer months with Felixstowe Town Council, Felixstowe Forward, the Felixstowe Beach Hut and Chalet Association and have been generally well received.
Suffolk Coastal District Council licences 906 beach hut sites in Felixstowe (two council-owned beach huts are used by Felixstowe Forward as tourist information points), as well as 12 beach hut and beach hut sites at Sizewell.
The Council owns the beach hut sites and currently grants an annual licence to the beach hut owners for a fee. This licence gives the holder access to a beach hut site upon which they have the right to place their hut for that year.
At the present time, 916 beach hut owners are on a one-year licence agreement, which ends on the 31st March 2018. Previously, the licence fees were reviewed annually through the Council’s Fees and Charges procedures.
Part of the rationale for the original review is that the current system is unnecessarily complex – with 14 different licence tariffs currently in place, which has built up progressively over the years.