THE owners of a row of beach huts worth almost £1million are dismayed after they were condemned overnight due to health and safety fears.

The hut owners received a ‘crass and unsympathetic’ council letter ordering them to demolish the 20 wooden cabins after their shingle beach was washed away by storms.

The erosion at Milford-on-Sea created a 12ft steep bank to open up in front of the huts that are now at risk of toppling over.

But instead of replenishing the stones as they have done before, New Forest District Council (NFDC) has adopted a ‘do nothing’ policy and ‘abandoned’ the privately-owned huts. The owners will not receive any compensation.

Officials have closed off the section of beach at Milford-on-Sea and have written to the owners instructing them to remove the ‘dangerous’ structures.

One couple spent £23,000 on buying their ‘dream’ hut that has been made worthless overnight.

Another owner faces losing their hut after owning it for 35 years.

Beach hut owner Hollie Gates said: “We’ve had our hut for over 20 years and were told to take it down.

“We’ve had no warning, no compensation and no discussions about this, it’s just been thrust upon us.

“The council used to get big diggers in every year and move shingle from the other end of the beach but they now adopt a ‘do nothing’ policy which has ended up in people losing their beach huts.

“A lot of us spent our childhoods down there so it’s not just the money, it’s a way of life. It is heartbreaking.”

Another hut owner, who did not want to be named, added: “Many owners are faced with losing everything and many are not wealthy people. Some are retired and have invested significant savings in the dream of a beach hut by the sea.

“The crassly worded and bureaucratic communications from the council including the latest demands to remove huts within tight deadlines have caused great upset which is completely unnecessary.

“The handling of this situation has been a shocking example of the worst type of local council aloof behaviour.”

Another hut owner posted on Facebook: “We bought our hut with money inherited and were very much looking forward to using it in our retirement.

“Here we are 17 months after spending quite a considerable amount of money buying our hut, kitting it our and redecorating and we’re left with nothing.”

The beach huts are worth between £20,000 to £55,000 each, with additional rents and fees paid to the council. An NFDC spokesman said they had taken the decision to ‘ensure the safety of anyone in the area’.

They said: “Our coastal team have been regularly monitoring the beach and huts following the recent and significant changes that have taken place as a result of the dynamic beach conditions.

“This has been done to enable us to inform beach hut owners of the changing conditions and to ensure the safety of anyone in the area.

“The stability of the huts is now deemed to be a significant risk and, due to the reduction in width of the beach and the unstable ground conditions, we have closed an area of the beach.

“We have also notified owners of those huts affected that they need to remove them due to the safety concerns raised by both our coastal and building control teams.

“Whilst we of course sympathise with the people who have huts, we have never given any assurances that the site would remain suitable for the purposes for which the licence was granted.”