Major changes to way Arun beach huts are managed could be on the way
Beach hut leases across Arun are set to end in six months and the council is looking to make some changes.
Leases for beach huts in locations such as Littlehampton, Ferring and Felpham will end on March 31 next year.
Arun District Council’s economic committee will discuss seven different options for the beach huts as well as some key changes on Tuesday (October 12).
Seven options lie before councillors for the future of the beach huts. If a decision is not made, leases would have to be extended or renewed.
Option 2 – increasing rent prices – is the preferred option and could see an additional £45,000 in annual revenue for the council. Other options could see leases for privately owned beach huts terminated or, alternatively, ground rent increased by 30 per cent.
Leases could also be made longer but with annual rent increases baked in.
Owners can’t rent out their beach huts currently, but changes could allow subletting with a fee paid to the council.
Selling huts on the open market is allowed, but the council hopes to gain a percentage of these sales in future. This could be up to 20 per cent or six times the annual ground rent – whichever is more.
Demand for beach huts continues to grow and around 30 council beach huts could be hired out on a daily basis or to local businesses. If this is not financially viable after 12 months, the huts would be rented to lessees instead.
ADC aims to increase the number of beach huts and has made £250,000 available for this.
The council promised beach hut customers that they would be notified of any changes six months before leases end.
That date has now passed and one Felpham beach hut owner, Tobias Lloyd, says there has been no consultation on the potential changes.
He said: “Arun District Council are intending on not renewing the current lease on the Felpham beach huts to the east of Felpham Sailing Club.
“This is tabled for discussion on October 12 with absolutely no consultation with the current beach hut owners.”
Mr Lloyd said that some of the Felpham huts had been owned ‘through generations’ with ‘many family memories’ attached to them.
“We have all invested time and money in maintaining our huts and have many family memories that are not considered by the council officers,” he said.
An ADC spokesperson said that ‘a number of options will be considered’ and a final decision will be made by councillors.
They said that all beach hut owners – council and private – will be written to if changes are made to their leases.
The spokesperson said: “We recognise that this may be unsettling for many beach hut customers / owners but must mention that Arun District Council, along with all other local authorities across the country, are working under
reducing financial settlements from central government.
“The council must therefore review all commercial activities, and this includes the beach hut service, in order to ensure that it is operating efficiently and effectively, consistent with sound property and estate management practice.”
The council took over the running of the huts from Inspire Leisure in 2016 and awarded five year leases at the time.
ADC currently manages 242 beach huts which are set to bring in £150,000 in revenue for the 2021/22 season.
But council officers reported that ‘an increasing number’ of privately owned beach huts ‘fall below the repair and condition standard required’.
Although there was leniency for delayed repairs during the pandemic, they say that leases could be terminated if maintenance and repairs are not completed going forward.
It currently costs Arun residents £880.34 a year to rent a beach hut. This rises to £1056.40 a year for non-residents and ground rent for private beach huts costs £446.03 per annum.
These prices don’t include a ‘Covid discount’ which has been applied in recognition of beach huts being used less during the pandemic.
In recent years, the council has spent £400,000 on 88 replacement huts and council officers hope that the changes, if adopted, could increase revenue and service improvements.