NEARLY £100,000 has been set aside in council coffers to build the controversial beach huts at Highcliffe cliff side.

Christchurch Borough Council will give at least £96,000 to the project from their reserves.

The decision was made at a meeting of the council’s resources committee last year.

The item was taken in private, with the public and press excluded from the meeting.

The council has previously said no public consultation was taken on the beach huts due to “commercial sensitivity”.

Residents, Christchurch MP Chris Chope and even author Bill Bryson, have hit out over the TV competition between Christchurch council and the producers of George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces to build 12 overnight beach retreats on the SSSI site.

A petition signed by hundreds of people calling on the council to scrap the plans has been handed to the authority by the Friends of Highcliffe Beaches and Cliffs.

It will be officially handed over to the council at a full meeting on July 12.

Speaking about the funding, a council spokesperson said: “Each of the winning designers will be given a budget of up to £8,000 towards the build costs of their design.

“This money, and money to improve the infrastructure (drainage, water supply etc.), was allocated from reserves by the council’s resources committee which considered the business case for the project and concluded that the projected income from rental would recover these costs.”

Responding to a number of questions from the Daily Echo, the authority also said people would be able to see the beach huts once they were built.

Last week the authority said the designs would not be seen until the programme aired.

“The individual sites will be fenced off during the construction period in line with normal Health and Safety precautions however once the construction phase is complete the fencing will be removed.

“People will be able to see the huts before the series goes live on Channel 4.”

The winning designs will be selected by a council representative, production company Plum Pictures and an independent judge ‘with no vested interest’.

The independent judge is required for fairness as part of the competition.

Christchurch council’s vote will also enable them to veto a design in the event it doesn’t meet relevant building or safety standards.

In total, 67 designs were received by the deadline of May 1, although a number of them were not viable for safety and structural reasons, Christchurch council said.

An initial shortlist was compiled with 22 designs, which was narrowed to 16 following further structural inspections by council experts.

The council maintains the structures do not need planning permission and are allowed under permitted development.