A FEROCIOUS storm that battered the Hampshire coastline is set to cost taxpayers more than £400,000, it has been revealed.
One of the worst hit areas was Hordle Cliff in the New Forest, where 102 of the 380 beach huts were either damaged or destroyed on the night of February 14.
Other parts of the New Forest were also hit by the 80mph winds, which caused widespread damage as well as severe flooding.
The district council responded to the crisis by distributing 10,000 sandbags and opening a rest centre for people forced to flee their homes and other storm-hit buildings.
These included the seafront Marine Cafe in Milford on Sea.
Diners enjoying what was supposed to be a romantic Valentine’s Day meal had to be rescued by soldiers and firefighters after rocks crashed through the windows and a huge tidal surge flooded the ground floor.
In the aftermath of the storm council employees removed dangerous debris and carried out emergency repairs to coastal defences at Hurst Spit and Milford.
Now members of the council’s ruling Cabinet have been warned that the authority’s response to the emergency is set to cost at least £415,000.
Officers said the Government would pay the lion’s share of the bill but warned that the council would have to find the first £38,000.
A report to members added: “The impact of the severe weather does not end with the emergency works.
“Many assets have been adversely affected, particularly around the coast, and it’s likely that further works will need to be undertaken, including repairs to buildings and pathways.”
Much of the debate centred on the damage to beach huts, which bore the full force of the savage storm.
Officers said 45 were destroyed, 20 were left in danger of collapsing and 19 were damaged but repairable. A further 18 were deemed to be at risk.
More than 60 of the huts will not be replaced until another period of monitoring has been carried out.
Cllr Edward Heron, deputy leader of the council, said: “This is incredibly difficult and distressing for beach hut owners.
“The council will do everything it can to support those whose beach huts have been lost or damaged but this is going to be a difficult time and we would urge people to bear with us.”
Cllr Paul Vickers, Cabinet member for planning and transport added: “The severe weather has created many difficulties for our community.
“There have been significant costs incurred and I am pleased that the Government will fund the majority of the work.”