Beach hut owners will be consulted on a new licence agreement with Brighton and Hove City Council.
Concerns that the authority was riding roughshod over hut owners were raised after the annual licence fee and the hut transfer fee were increased along with new wording introduced in the owners’ agreement.
Wish ward Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth took up the cause as his area has one of the the longest stretches of beach huts.
At the council’s Tourism, Development and Culture Committee last night (Thursday 21 June) he accepted that there was little he could do about the fees increasing as these were agreed by councillors in January.
The licence changes from £367.30 to £404 and the transfer fee changes from £82 to three times the licence fee or 10 per cent of the sale price, whichever is greater.
However, he considered the “last-minute” way that the licence was sent to beach hut owners and councillors without consultation was outrageous.
The key line in the council officers’ report that angered Mr Nemeth and others was: “Ultimately the council would have to be prepared to terminate the licences if beach hut owners refuse to accept the new terms.”
Mr Nemeth said: “This almost feels like it should be national news.
“If you don’t sign this contract then your hut gets crushed. That is outrageous.”
He accepted the need for change but told the committee that what was needed was consultation.
Mr Nemeth added: “Is this best practice?
“We would be horrified if a landlord behaved in the way the council is behaving.”
His call to defer the decision and consult beach hut owners gained support from Green and fellow Conservative councillors.
Regency ward Green councillor Tom Druitt said: “This is telling beach hut owners if you don’t sign this you’ll be turfed out.
“I welcome the opportunity to look at it in more detail.”
East Brighton Labour councillor Nancy Platts pointed out that the licence would not come into effect until 2019.
She said: “People have got some time to consider whether or not they wish to keep their beach huts.
“There is nothing about crushing beach huts. If they want to sell then they have time.”
Five councillors voted in favour of Mr Nemeth’s proposal to discuss beach huts at the committee’s September meeting after a proper consultation.
Three councillors voted against and two – Labour councillors Kevin Allen and Adrian Morris – abstained.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Nemeth said: “I am delighted to win the backing of fellow committee members on the principle that beach hut owners were not properly consulted.”