PLANS to increase fees for beach hut tenants as part of a five-year ‘harmonisation’ scheme have been voted through by BCP Council – despite furious opposition.

Representatives from beach hut associations as well as ward councillors called on members of BCP Council’s cabinet to reconsider their pricing plans at a meeting on Wednesday.

All hutters would see their respective charges go up between 10 and 26 per cent for 2023/24. The majority fall somewhere in between these two figures.

Fees for huts will be harmonised across eight different price bands within five years.

Read more: Beach hut groups slam BCP Council's proposed fee increase

The plans were described during the meeting as “discriminatory”, with one member saying the strategy resembled ‘sweating the assets’.

Representatives from beach hut associations across the conurbation made submissions to members saying their input had been ignored by the council.

Alan Cook reading a statement on behalf of Bournemouth Beach Hut Association said: “To say we have been consulted is a total misrepresentation. Councillors failed to respond to emails and our costed alternative for 23/24 has been ignored. We believe this is a blatant attempt to get the proposal agreed without scrutiny.”

A statement from Friars Cliff Beach Hut Association warned the council that the proposals “penalises local residents and will cause political damage to this administration”.

Bournemouth Echo: BCP Council leader Cllr Drew Mellor, inset, has confirmed the beach hut sale plan is off

Steve Barratt from Mudeford Sandbank Beach Hut Association said despite the group presenting an “equitable alternative”, the proposals were “an attempt to raid the pockets of hut licence holders with a vague promise to improve facilities”.

Read more: BCP Council beach huts fees see increases across the board

Speaking during the meeting, portfolio holder, Cllr Mark Anderson said the proposals were considered to be “fair and reasonable” and meant specific funds would be available for maintenance costs.

Cllr Beverley Dunlop likened the seafront to a jigsaw puzzle, saying pieces need to be in the right place and right shape.

“It is there for everyone to enjoy but some elements of it must generate income to keep it all at a high standard.”

Mudeford, Stanpit and West Highcliffe ward councillor Lesley Dedman said: “I have had a huge number of comments from residents that the proposal is unfair.

“Among other complaints on the plan, many are upset at the thought that there is a huge concern over the money.”

Commons ward councillor, Margaret Phipps said she fully backed beach hut associations over their concerns.

“What we have here is a five-year plan which appears to use beach hutters as cash cows to fill a financial hole in the council’s finances.

Bournemouth Echo:

“What confidence is there as to what the money will be spent on?

“This is not right; they did suggest an alternative which seems to be dismissed out of hand.

“I hope you are going to listen to what residents have to say – this is across the whole of BCP.”

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Canford Heath ward councillor Sandra Moore, who has a beach hut, said while she recognised the need to harmonise, the council was at risk of ‘pricing out local people’.

Lead member for engagement, Cllr Judes Butt said people did not feel there had been appropriate consultation.

“These people in our communities are not idiots; they are accountants and bankers - all people with massive skillsets”, she said.

“Due process with regards to this has been odd and incredibly complex.

“Engagement has to be clear and simple and everyone involved.”

“If this report has made people feel resentful then clearly, we need to reiterate on this.”

The report also recommended allowing all BCP Council residents to join the waiting list for standard huts and sites, with officers also requesting backing for a financial plan to invest additional income from rental fees, transfers and long-leases to improve service standards and enable further investment in seafront assets.

This would include increased beach hut operational staff, more money on for maintenance and an overhaul of the IT system.

The net benefit to the council would be £309k next year and a total of £5.56m across the next five years.

All the recommendations were approved.