FURIOUS beach hut tenants have been told they must continue to pay rent despite being warned they can't use their huts.

Social distancing guidelines have seen people sent home from the beach and all facilities, including public toilets, have been closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But tenants have been warned against going into arrears "to ensure your licence is secure for the remainder of the licence period."

Kate Macauley, a tenant of a Sandbanks beach hut, said she has contacted BCP Council on several occasions asking to suspend payments.

But she has been told she must continue paying more than £200 a month.

She told the Daily Echo: "I am flabbergasted - I think it is appalling. I am normally quite flexible but this is an unprecedented situation.

"I work really hard, I'm not wealthy and, like everyone else, I'm worried about money at the moment." Kate said she has been happy with the response to the coronavirus from all other organisations.

"I am a member of a gym and they contacted me straightaway to say all payments would be suspended until it is open again.

"Everyone has been amazing so I don't understand why the council is dealing with the beach huts in this way."

Kate added that the council suggested payments could be reimbursed in the future.

But she added: "There are no facilities open and police are patrolling the beach. I had an email from the council stating we must continue to pay and when this is ‘over’ (their words), they will calculate the pro rata amount paid from a date last week, and reimburse tenants.

"I think this is a morally wrong and a revenue driven decision. The government is helping us. Local gyms have suspended memberships and frozen payments, but not the council beach huts.

"I am concerned about my income. I am unhappy that I could be paying out over a thousand pounds on something I cannot use - even I wanted to."

Councillor Lewis Allison, Cabinet Member for Tourism, Leisure and Communities, said: "We appreciate it is an extremely difficult time for many people. It is however vitally important that we adhere to national guidance to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary travel, we understand that this prevents our tenants from making use of beach hut facilities for now.

"We want to ensure our current tenants are able to continue to secure their huts until the national situation improves. We are looking at all of the options available and will update tenants again when we know more.’"