Beach hut owners in Fareham are at 'breaking point' as rents go up 40 per cent in five years
Owners of beach huts in Fareham borough say they are ‘tired of being treated like a cash cow’ as the council hikes rents – which are now 40 per cent higher than 2015.
Residents and members of the Fareham Hut Association expressed their frustration at a meeting of the executive of Fareham Borough Council on Monday evening.
Officers from the council proposed an increase of 11.4 per cent for sites used for beach huts, but the executive voted to put up rents by five per cent for 2019/20 financial year.
The new rate will see Fareham residents pay £532 a year, while non-residents will shell out £1,064.
The chairman of Fareham Beach Hut Association, Percy O’Dell, said that increasing rents were already causing many owners to look into ‘giving up’ their huts.
He said: ‘People have said this is the end of the line. They are at breaking point.
‘But we have only sold about four in the last year, and we had a couple of sales fall through because people can’t afford the costs. ‘It’s really sad – some people have had these huts in their family since 1939.’
The rent hike affects the owners of 171 beach huts across two sites in Fareham borough, at Cliff Road and Monks Hill in Hill Head.
Council leader Sean Woodward said he appreciated the proposed 11.4 per cent increase was ‘a big increase in one go.’
He said: ‘We rent prime real estate, and we think it stands in comparison with other areas.
‘When we used to operate a waiting list for beach huts, it was huge – there were hundreds of people on it.
‘Now we have instances where huts sell for more than £20,000.’
A lack of space would mean the creation of more huts could lead to a two-tiered market, according to Cllr Woodward.
He said: ‘If we had two rows of beach huts, then the ones behind would think they have the cheap seats.’
Cllr Woodward said there was a ‘fair comparison’ with the rents for huts on Hayling Island, which served as a price model for the council’s recommend increase.
But one beach hut owner at the meeting said Fareham was ‘miles apart from picturesque Hayling,’ as he complained of excessive seaweed, noise pollution from Solent Airport, and dilapidated groynes. Mr O’Dell added: ‘We are tired of being treated like a cash cow.’