THE battle of the beach huts is over – with decision in favour of larger huts at Avon Beach in Mudeford.

Ward councillors, Christchurch Town Council and residents had objected to plans for bigger huts claiming the promenade was already too congested and would lead to more problems for visitors and residents.

That view had the support of BCP’s highways team – although the council’s planning officer took the opposite position and said the larger huts should be allowed.

The council’s planning committee was told on Thursday of noisy parties into the night, anti-social behaviour and rows between hut users and those who wanted to walk, or cycle, along the promenade, but found their path blocked.

Some against the larger huts argued that the bigger units would lead to more people and more problems.

Almost 180 people had written against the two applications, 42 in support.

After a lengthy debate the committee voted 9-4 for a retrospective application for larger huts already in place (nos 63-99), and by a similar margin for a proposal to extend the size of others from hut 23 along to 62.

Avon Beach Ltd said their larger huts were a response to demand and over ten years the company had invested £3.2million in improvements to the area – ensuring where they could that the promenade remained around 5metres wide. They said it was not in their interest to have visitors unhappy with the local facilities.

But several councillors and residents’ letters complained that the rules to stop hut owners encroaching on the prom had not been enforced, leading to conflicts – and despite a day time only rule, people had often been seen in their huts late into the evening.

Ward councillor Lesley Dedman said she occasionally heard noise from the beach from her home, set back from the cliff top, into the early hours, and said she believed the larger huts had and would attract larger parties.

“The very fact that they are bigger will encourage more people to use the promenade,” she said, citing her own visits where she had seen people from huts setting out table and chairs across the promenade, although the rules said they should be limited to a metre from the hut door.

“We all know this happens no matter how much the applicant tells us it is being policed,” she said.

The huts already in place have been extended from 2.6metres to 4.2metres, although almost 5metres of promenade was still useable, the committee heard. A similar distance would remain with the nearby huts, 63-99, being extended by 1.2 metres.

Cllr Toby Johnson said he did not understand what the fuss was about – some of the larger huts had been in place for three or more years and there had been no complaints he had heard of to the council. He said if there had been beach parties that was not a planning issue and might be unconnected with the huts.

He said he had no doubt that if people did block the promenade they would soon be shouted at by other users and argued that even with the larger huts the remaining promenade width was much more than in other beach areas locally.

Several councillors argued the larger huts were out of character and not like traditional beach huts: “At what size will this stop? It should be refused,” said Cllr Peter Hall arguing the larger huts would lead to an unacceptable loss of public open space and applications for even larger structures.

But others, including Cllr Steve Barron, did not recognise the logic of some of the arguments.

“I’m struggling with the allegation that a large beach hut will entice people to have acid house raves, or whatever. I’m struggling to accept that,” he said.

Committee chairman Cllr David Kelsey said it was a fact that many beach huts were now larger than in the 1960s when he was growing up. “I don’t think we can stand in the way of progress…in my opinion there is enough room here and most people are sensible enough not to block it,” he said.

The application had come before the committee because BCP Council is the landowner, although the area is leased to Avon Beach Ltd.