Open-ended leases on beach chalets will end after Labour and Conservative councillors joined forces to push through a rule change.
Would-be tenants who have spent years on the waiting list for one of the chalets – in Saltdean, Rottingdean, Ovingdean, Madeira Drive and Hove – lobbied councillors.
And a joint proposal was put forward by Labour councillor Amanda Evans and Conservative Robert Nemeth at a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting yesterday (Thursday 14 January).
As a result, indefinite leases will end as members of the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee voted by six to four to phase them out over eight years, once the coronavirus lockdown had ended.
Beach chalets have been restricted to Brighton and Hove residents since 2011 when a fixed five-year term was also brought in.
Councillor Evans said that 70 per cent of those who responded to a council survey on beach huts and chalets wanted indefinite leases ended within five years, with 22 per cent saying that they should end within a year.
Councillor Evans said: “There’s obviously no appetite among the general population, who have expressed an interest, in having indefinite leases and we should be looking to phase them out.
“We also think it would be a lovely idea to have one or more available for short-term community lettings.”
Councillor Nemeth said that he was concerned to hear the comments from leaseholders who had waited a long time for their huts and those still on the waiting list.
He said: “The underlying issue here is of course that there is a limited resource – rental chalets – which the council has responsibility for managing, and the current levels of supply and demand are so out of sync that intervention has become logical.
“The first sensible action would be to increase supply. If the number of chalets, say, could be doubled, the waiting list may well be satisfied.”
Green councillor Marianna Ebel opposed bringing long-term tenancies to an end because they had been entered into in “good faith”.
She said: “If you compare that with garages, we wouldn’t take away a garage after five years just because there are more people wanting a garage than there are garages.
“Some people have bought small flats without an outdoor space because they thought for the rest of their life they would have a beach chalet for their outdoor space. They are understandably upset.”
Former Brighton and Hove City Council deputy leader Sue John, who now chairs Rottingdean Parish Council, asked for a review of the proposed changes in 18 months, to see if they had made a difference to the long waiting list.
Saltdean resident David Wilson told councillors that 17 of the 20 indefinitely leased chalets there were underused.
He said: “As someone who walks down to the undercliff probably twice a day with my dogs in rain and sunshine, I know how much they are not used.”
Former councillor Mo Marsh wanted lease extensions for those who had applied for a beach chalet when only indefinite leases were available but who had since been granted just a five-year lease.
The former mayor told the committee that she spent 14 years on the waiting list for her chalet, and her neighbour in Madeira Drive waited for 19 years.
She said: “There are certain chalets where you never see anybody there. I do think that is an issue considering there is such a need.
“There are lots of people who would like to be using chalets but can’t.
“It is important that everyone who has a licence uses the chalet, keeps paying their rentals and maintains the chalet to the conditions it should be.”
Green councillor Steph Powell, who chairs the committee, said that extending the leases would not be possible.
Councillors unanimously agreed to end any leases with people living outside Brighton and Hove as soon as possible.
The committee also agreed to carry out annual checks to ensure that all chalets were maintained.
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