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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 16:38 GMT
Beach hut owners angry at council
Beach hut owners in a coastal resort are furious at moves which could see one owner paying up to 800 a year more in rent and rates.

The Southend Beach Hut Owners Association fears the fees may be too expensive for some older members.

They are also angry that Southend Council wants to put a clause into the leases forcing them to pay 10% of the selling price if they sell their huts.

The council says the leases are fair for hut owners and council taxpayers.

The council said it had commissioned property management firm Dedman to work on the new leases for the huts - which are presently valued at between 12,000 and 20,000.

How will any of the old age pensioners that I see be able to afford that?
Hut owner Elizabeth Storey

A council spokesman said the new clause provided a "fair contribution to local taxpayers".

The spokesman added: "Both Dedman's and the council feel that these terms are both attractive and fair and hope the leaseholders will sign up."

But hut owner Elizabeth Storey criticised the lease plan and the increase in rent and rates.

"I own a hut on the beach and I live in London but most of the huts are owned by local families and have stayed the same for years," she said.

'Not luxury huts'

"My own hut has increased from 309.33 ground rent and business rates including VAT to 1,168.21, that's 22 per week to visit a hut I own.

"How will any of the old age pensioners that I see be able to afford that?"

The council disputes the 1,168.21 figure.

A spokesman for the Hut Owners Assocation said the majority of owners could see the amount of rent and rates they pay rise from 320 last year to 500-600.

"The letter from Dedman's gives tenants little more than two weeks to accept the new terms," he said.

"If they do not, tenants are required to remove their huts from the site by 1 March.

"Many of the huts are owned by pensioners, having been in the family for many years, and this draconian condition has caused them real distress."

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