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Massive hike in north Norfolk beach hut fees ‘a blow to families and traders’

PUBLISHED: 09:40 18 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:40 18 February 2016

Beach huts at Mundesley. Picture: SUBMITTED

Beach huts at Mundesley. Picture: SUBMITTED

Archant

A massive rise in north Norfolk beach hut hire charges will hit families on tight incomes and hit the pockets of seaside traders, according to opponents.

Mum-of-three Jacqueline Belson told North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) members yesterday that if the proposed hike goes ahead she will seriously consider swapping her Mundesley beach hut for a static caravan out of the area.

Mrs Belson, a former mayor of North Walsham, is horrified at plans to send her fees rocketing by 133pc.

She and her husband have owned their beach hut for about nine years and spend “every spare minute” at it with their daughters during the summer holidays, boosting the village economy by buying food, drink and other items while there.

But NNDC wants to increase annual Mundesley beach hut fees from £210 to £240 for 2016-2017, soaring to £490 by 2019-2020.

Charges for beach huts in Cromer, Overstrand and Sheringham are set to rise from £220 to £500 over the same four-year period.

Mrs Belson told yesterday’s NNDC overview and scrutiny committee that all Mundesley’s beach huts were owned privately and the small space they occupied was rented from the council.

Owners shared the use of one tap and two toilets and had to pay a contractor to remove and store their huts between October and April, which meant they only had six months’ use of the shacks each year.

She said it currently cost her family about £645 annually to keep the hut. If the price rises went ahead, this would soar to £945.

The family also faced paying an extra 30p per hour to park in Mundesley as a result of council plans to increase prices in its coastal car parks.

“The district council seems to be pricing locals like ourselves out of the market,” said Mrs Belson.

“Mundesley doesn’t have the pull of some other resorts.

“You could be left with vacant huts, or find that people with money from elsewhere are taking them and only using them for a week.”

Conservative Barry Smith, who represents Mundesley, backed Mrs Belson.

“We want to encourage people to come to this place, not put them off. The village needs to make money in the very short summer holiday season and I don’t think this will help in any way,” he said.

“It seems unfair to push people out who’ve had the pleasure of these huts for years. This price seems excessive for the facilities they’ve got there.”

Duncan Ellis, NNDC’s head of assets and leisure, said the planned increase for the next financial year was only £30 and the rises for the following three years were proposals at present.

But the council had to find ways of making more money to fill a £1.9m gap in its budget.

Beach hut hire in north Norfolk was cheap compared to other areas. There were 250 beach huts in Cromer, Sheringham, Overstrand and Mundesley, and a waiting list of 250 people who wanted one.

The council also plans to introduce a one-off £25 fee for those on the waiting list.

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