Poole beach hut proposals to restrict leases

Two-tier beach huts in Poole
Image caption The lease proposals on Poole's beach huts will undergo a public consultation in the spring

They are one of the most famous features of the seafront at Poole in Dorset.

However, the beach huts that look over the seaside town's beach have now proved almost too popular.

Now, a row has broken out between the tenants of the huts and the council over the latter's plans to restrict the length of the huts' lease - to give more people the chance of renting them out.

Currently tenants can renew their contract year on year, but the Borough of Poole is now looking to limit contracts to five and 10 years in an effort to reduce the lengthy waiting list.

"Poole's beach huts are very popular but unfortunately the council does not have enough huts to meet the existing demand," said council recreation manager Anthony Rogers.

The waiting list for the 1,138 huts is currently closed and standing at 364.

Some current leaseholders have said they are "very angry" at the proposals.

'Relax and unwind'

Bob Lister, chairman of the Poole Beach Hut Association, said there were 99 short-term rental huts for people to rent one for a week or a day via the council website.

He added the council "could add 100 new huts to spare locations and halve the waiting list overnight".

Recently the authority opened 22 new huts at Branksome Chine and said it hoped to build more "as soon as possible", but added that alone would not solve "the main issue of people having to wait several years for a beach hut".

So what is the great appeal to hold on to these huts?

"A lot of people like myself are not retired or have no grandchildren yet," said Mr Lister, who has rented his hut for 12 years.

"It would be nice when I retire to enjoy the hut with my grandchildren."

"We have a dog and we are near a dog-friendly beach," he added.

"It's just somewhere for us to relax and unwind."

He said it now cost him £1,500 a year to rent his hut, compared to £700 to £800 five years ago.

"A lot of people on the waiting list don't appreciate what the costs are," he said.

"We've just had two 15% increases per year and a third one comes in next year, so a lot of people on the waiting list from five years ago may no longer be interested."

'Greedy minority'

However, some Dorset online forum users have sided with the council.

"These huts are a limited public resource and in my opinion should be shared out in a fair manner to all," said one.

"The idea that they should be held onto by families for generations seems somehow wrong to me."

Another called the tenants "a greedy minority", while another said "the renters are bleating, you'd think they were having the family home taken away and made homeless.".

The council said it would hold a public consultation on the proposals soon, with final proposals to be published later this year.

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