EXC: Owners of Essex beach huts slam 'overzealous' council bosses

The Only Way in EXCESSIVE! Defiant owners of ‘pimped up’ Essex beach huts slam ‘overzealous’ council bosses for trying to rein in their extravagant upgrades including balconies, decking and patios

  • EXCLUSIVE: Owners of highly sought-after beach huts in Essex have blasted ‘overzealous’ local officials 
  • Council has warned them to stop renting out wooden sheds to staycationers and ‘pimping up’ huts 
  • Multi-coloured huts in Clacton, Walton and Frinton have been refurbished, extended and leased
  • But this has all been done without council permission and in violation of their current hut licences 

The defiant owners of ‘pimped up’ beach huts in Essex have blasted ‘overzealous’ council bosses who have warned them to stop renting out their wooden sheds to staycationers and rein in their extravagant upgrades with balconies, decking and patios.

A growing number of colourful huts that line the seafronts of Clacton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze and Frinton-on-Sea have been refurbished and extended by their owners and leased out to holidaymakers for £200 a day without council permission.

Each owner must buy a licence from Tendring District Council, and the huts must be built to a specific blueprint and cannot be rented out.

Hut owners say that decking up the properties has boosted local tourism and helped fuelled the gentrification of the seafronts areas. 

However, officials has now warned that they will have to comply with their strict measurement rules and stop renting out the huts. In a letter sent to around 3,200 owners, Tendring District Council said an upcoming review to the licence will ‘address those Beach Hut adaptations which fall outside of the existing specification and licence conditions’.

The owners claim that the crackdown has already triggered a tidal wave of booking cancellations, resulting in ‘thousands of pounds of lost income’.

They have now started a petition against the licence review and have received more than 2,000 signatures already.

Though many of the owners are confused about the timing of the council’s letter, ex-soldier Mark Clare, who runs Ten Hut Limited, believes that a hut called ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ – which is painted in bright turquoise and white and boasts an Audrey Hepburn stencil – may have triggered the upset among some of the more conservative hut owners.

And in nearby Clacton, Kim Norfolk told the council to ‘relax a bit’ and warned that such officiousness could ‘put people off’ from visiting.

A row of beach huts along the seafront at Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, May 3, 2022

Mark Clare, who runs a beach hut restoration/decorating business in Frinton, May 3, 2022

A hut called ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ – which is painted in bright turquoise and white and boasts an Audrey Hepburn stencil – may have triggered the upset among some of the more conservative hut owners

A row of beach huts along the seafront at Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, May 3, 2022

A growing number of the colourful huts that line the seafronts of Clacton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze and Frinton-on-Sea have been refurbished and extended by their owners and leased out for up to £200 a day without council permission

What colours can you paint your hut?

Pale Pink; Pale cream; Sage green; Pale green; Blue grey; Pale blue

What building specifications are there to the beach huts?

You can’t add anything outside of the footprint of your hut without planning permission, except for basic straight steps as per the licence conditions.

Can you drive down to my beach hut to unload or collect items?

If gates are locked out of season, hut owners should call Tendring District Council for access.

Source: Tendring District Council 

The letter, signed from the ‘Beach Huts Team’, states: ‘Whilst most beach huts do fall within the standard dimensions, there are some which fall outside, with the addition of balconies/patios/decking areas.

‘We will be looking at how to best address these and other variations of existing licence conditions through the revised strategy.’

It adds: ‘We would also like to draw your attention to the existing licence conditions… which mean beach huts rentals are not currently permitted. However, these licence conditions will be reviewed as part of the new Beach Hut Strategy’.

Speaking to MailOnline, Kate Taylor, who owns a hut at Frinton, said she cannot understand why the spotlight is suddenly on the popular wooden structures. 

‘Most of the huts here do comply with the rules – they don’t go beyond their boundaries and haven’t had any additional work done,’ she said.

‘I think there are a handful of huts that have thrown the spotlight on the issue. There are some very brightly coloured ones, quite garish and ones that do have very large verandas. I’m sure that’s what has triggered the complaints.’

Mr Clare said the rental huts along the promenades are always well-maintained whereas the privately owned ones that do not hire out as often in a bad state.

‘There has been a trend for the verandas to get bigger in recent years, there’s no doubt about that,’ he told MailOnline.

‘But some of these structures – including massive ones – have been here since the 1940s so there’s a lot of confusion at the moment about what’s going on.

‘The rental market is worth millions to the local economy and I know a lot of the beach hut owners who rent theirs out are really worried about what the future holds. I know there are some meetings planned as people want to get clarity.

‘If you look at the rental huts compared to those that are not rented out, the difference is phenomenal. In some ways this crackdown is ‘back to front’ really as they’re punishing the wrong people.’

He added: ‘We need some clarification about what’s going to be okay as I have about 10 owners who want verandas adding but until this is resolved I don’t want to take on the work – it’s not fair as they might only have to take them back down again further down the line.

‘There are some that are whoppers, that’s for sure. I’d say 70% of the huts are never used and you can see them in a really bad state of repair.

‘It’s the rental ones that are well looked after and bring a splash of colour to the town with the murals.’

Other issues of concern include the use of composite decking boards, rather than timber, on the huts which technically breaches the council’s rules, he added. 

Mr Clare runs a beach hut restoration/decorating business in Frinton, May 3, 2022

A row of colourful beach huts in Frinton-on-Sea and their verandas, May 3, 2022 

More beach huts along the seafront at Frinton in Essex, May 3, 2022

Another owner, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Frinton is a genteel seaside down and the pace of life is slow here. We joke that ‘we don’t like change’ but there’s a fair bit of truth in that. It took years before the first pub was given the go-ahead, so now that people are changing their huts and adding to them with large verandas, it’s been frowned upon.

‘I don’t really know what the rules are to be honest but we’ve got a massive mix of huts here – some are weather beaten, some are freshly painted. Some are plain, some are garish.

‘It’s always been a bit of a mixed bag. You’d think the council would have more important things to be worrying about.’

Millie’s Beach Huts owner Vicky Gunn, who owns a shed herself and rents out others in Walton, said: ‘The issue is that in the same letter they’ve effectively changed their stance on beach hut rentals and come down very, very hard on specifications when in previous years they haven’t done that – far from it – pretty much because we’ve regenerated the area on their behalf. 

‘The council has never come down and visited and taken action against anyone unless it’s been in disrepair.’

Ms Gunn also told The Telegraph that she made a small alteration to her own hut which means it no longer meets the strict specifications. The regulations are strict, with exact measurements and requests, ranging from no side window, the height of the hut, the size of the veranda and ‘a clear preference for beach huts to be painted within a palette of suggested pastel colours’.

Alex Porter, Tendring District Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism, said: ‘We are just starting the process of revising the Beach Hut Strategy, and as part of this we will be reviewing the existing licence scheme to see what improvements can be made.

‘The views of beach hut associations are integral to this, and we will be asking for their involvement in the process.

‘The existing licence is for personal use only and requires hut owners to inform us before they sell their hut – and that the new owner can only apply for a new licence if the hut meets the licence requirements.’

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