A WIDOW who bought a beach hut to live the dream she shared with her late husband could be ‘forced to sell up’ if council fees continue to rise.
Barbara Colson, 54, forked out £10,500 for a hut at Eastoke, Hayling Island, in 2015 after she lost her husband Melvyn to a sudden heart attack.
But her effort to chase the coastal fantasy she and her partner held dear has ‘turned sour’ – as Havant Borough Council’s (HBC) annual leasehold for non-residents has hiked from £900 to £1,234 in three years.
Comparatively, residents of the Havant borough must pay less than half, at £515.
Ms Colson, from Winchester, who works as a tour guide and is a carer for her elderly mother, has described the rate as ‘completely unfair’.
She said: ‘I bought my beach hut as an escape from the trauma of my husband’s death.
‘We had planned to move to the coast and always dreamed of Hayling Island – my dream has turned sour.
‘The continued increase in the yearly site licence is forcing myself and many other out of district hutters to face the reality of selling up.’
As fees hiked to the current rate – which Ms Colson was prompted to pay in a bill this week – she formed the Facebook group Hayling Happy Hutters and rallied HBC.
This, she said, led to a promise from councillors of a review of the fees – but they have only increased.
She said: ‘HBC seems to see the out-of-district owners as cash cows – the fees for both sets of owners need to be like-for-like.
‘I’m not a sponge, I’ve spent more than £1,000 on my hut this year and 70 per cent of that was on the island.
‘But it’s as if HBC don’t want people to come to Hayling.’
Ms Colson’s plea for a slash in rates comes after her hut and a number of others were targeted in a spate of break-ins in March.
Outlining the current fee policy for beach hut owners, HBC leader, councillor Michael Wilson, said: ‘The fee for a beach hut plot licence was agreed by cabinet in November 2017, following recommendations from scrutiny board.
‘The current fee was agreed with a view to increasing incrementally over a period of time to a market rate.
‘We are undertaking a full assessment of the situation and will be discussing the variance between resident and non-resident fees at a cabinet meeting.’
The meeting will take place at 2pm today, at the Public Service Plaza in Havant.