Friday, 10 July 2015

Public meeting to address District Council's beach huts >>> Sidmouth: Tuesday 7th July >>> reports

Earlier this week saw a meeting to look at the proposals for beach huts in Sidmouth and East Devon:
Futures Forum: Public meeting to address District Council's beach huts >>> Sidmouth: Tuesday 7th July

This is the report from the Herald:

Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

And this is the report from the meeting itself:

Futures Forum of the Vision Group for Sidmouth


Kennaway House, Sidmouth: Tuesday 7th July 2015


Apologies from: Officer Donna Best (EDDC Property), Cllr Iain Chubb (EDDC StreetScene Portfolio), Cllr Stuart Hughes (EDDC Sidmouth/Sidford), Cllr Dawn Manley (EDDC Sidmouth/Sidford), Cllr Simon Pollentine (STC Tourism Portfolio), Cllr Ian Thomas (EDDC Finance Portfolio)

Attendance: approximately 45 members of the public.
Councillors at the meeting: Cllr David Barratt (EDDC Sidmouth Rural), Cllr Matthew Booth (EDDC Sidmouth Town), Cllr John Dyson (EDDC Sidmouth Town), Cllr Cathy Gardner (EDDC Sidmouth Town), Cllr Roger Giles (EDDC Chair, Scrutiny), Cllr Geoff Pook (EDDC Chair, Asset Management Forum), Cllr Marianne Rixson (EDDC Sidmouth Sidford)

The Chair’s notes/agenda can be found here:

Every attendee was invited to address the meeting. Comments included:

Cllr Roger Giles (EDDC Chair, Scrutiny) confirmed that the issue would be on the agenda of the Scrutiny Cttee of 17th September.

Cllr Geoff Pook (EDDC Chair, Asset Management Forum) clarified that the previous AMF had decided to consider ‘best value’ and ‘market price’. The new Cttee will review the situation, identify the way forward and make proposals.
The EDDC questionnaire was only one part of the current consultation; Cllr Pook has attended other meetings on the issue in the District. He understood the depth of feeling and that the document which had been sent out was flawed.
Cllr Pook would be willing to receive correspondence on the issue and will consider concerns by e-mail: gpook@eastdevon.gov.uk                                                          

Tom Griffiths, (former Sidmouth beach hut franchisee) pointed out that in 1962 proposals had been made for ‘double-decking’ of huts at Jacob’s Ladder.

Dr John Twibell (Chair, Devon Plant Heritage) outlined the value of the beach garden at Clifton beach, planted together with Sidmouth in Bloom.

To summarise the conclusions from the meeting:

> There was overwhelming opposition from all parties to ‘commercial development’ along Clifton walkway or the beach in general, in that this would devalue the resort, rather than enhance it. It was felt that Sidmouth’s beaches, including its huts, were family-friendly – and that any new arrangement could seriously compromise the welcoming feel of the resort.

> It was recognised that each seaside town in East Devon is different and that this diversity should be recognised in any proposals.

> It was felt that the long-term sustainability of Sidmouth’s seafront should be the priority. Any plans for beach huts should be included in the current Beach Management Plan.

> It was recognised that the waiting lists were long. Should extra huts be required, alternative sites could include:
     - one of the terraces behind the existing Jacob Ladder huts;
     - on the Esplanade below the Belmont Hotel.

> A design competition for any new huts would excite positive interest.

> A system of ‘lockers’ was suggested to supplement the provision of beach huts.

> There should be a return to a flexible tenure for the whole year, with approx. 10 huts hired out on a weekly basis during the peak summer season, allowing tourists to benefit. Local residents enjoying a long-term let have been more than prepared to accept this arrangement. This could ensure a doubling of current income – as well as a balance between different types of user.

> It was suggested that a lottery system for the out-of-season period might be a fair system of allocating beach huts in the future.

> The voluntary rotation and sharing of the use/tenure of huts between tenants should be recognised and encouraged – as should the value of the huts as a focal point for the local community and for ‘regular tourists’. A set of different rents/rates for huts would disrupt a sense of social cohesion.

> There were fears that a system of ‘highest bidder’ could bring about a similar situation to that in many parts of Cornwall where ‘wealthy outsiders’ have bought up huts at the expense of local people – who, it was felt, should be the priority. Whilst it was understood that EDDC were facing budget cuts, it was important that an equitable solution be found, that tenants not face eviction and that rents be affordable.

> It was generally felt that the consultation had been based on erroneous information, that it had not been fair and open, that proper responses to concerns had not been addressed and that, consequently, any auctioning process would lack legitimacy.

> The financial basis of the proposals was not clear, including the method for calculating the rates, and the final profit made on the huts.

> On the separate but related issue of street trading, there was also overwhelming opposition to relaxing regulations any further. Sidmouth’s retail and hospitality industry relies on the peak weeks during the tourist season – and any provision of commercial services on the beach could jeopardise Sidmouth as an all-year-round resort.


The 40 or so questionnaires which were filled in by attendees have now been handed into the District Council as part of their consultation:
Beach huts service - East Devon

See also:
Seaton Beach Huts meeting: not a happy place for EDDC Councillor Pook | East Devon Watch
... plus the comments:
Seaton Beach Huts meeting: not a happy place for EDDC Councillor Pook | East Devon Watch

Futures Forum: East Devon's beach huts and the Asset Management Forum

No comments: