England’s oldest strip of beach huts faces the bulldozer as owners band together to take council to court in desperate bid to save beloved hideaways
- The brightly coloured beach huts in Felixstowe have overlooked the North Sea for almost 140 years
- East Suffolk Council says ‘beach erosion and unpredictable conditions’ mean they will now have to be moved
- Locals have launched a judicial review in a bid to delay a removal order on the ‘historically important site’
The owners of England’s oldest beach huts are taking their council to court after they were ordered to remove them from the seafront.
The beach huts in Felixstowe have overlooked the sea for almost 140 years and are understood to have been the first in the country – but East Suffolk Council has said beach erosion means they have to be moved.
However, as new locations for the huts still have to be approved, the hut owners still face the prospect of seeing their licences terminated completely.
Locals have been given until March 31 to remove them but they have launched a judicial review in a bid to delay the removal order.
There are currently 44 huts but only 30 are being granted permission to relocate due to limited space which means 14 hut owners will have to get rid of their huts altogether, without compensation from the council.
The owners argue the huts are part of what attracts visitors to Felixstowe and that they play an important cultural role.
The owners of England’s oldest beach huts in Felixstowe are taking East Suffolk Council to court after they were ordered to remove them from the seafront
East Suffolk Council says ‘beach erosion and unpredictable conditions’ means they cannot be returned to the sand where they have stood for over 100 years and will now have to be moved or possibly demolished
In the 1930s, beach huts had become a must have at popular resorts such as Felixstowe in Suffolk, pictured, with row upon row of the structures built to meet ever-increasing demand
Will Crisp, a consultant designer who has owned a hut for 10 years, told the Telegraph: ‘It’s a historically important site to British seaside culture. It’s a thread that runs throughout our history and what made Felixstowe fashionable.
‘The heritage loss for Felixstowe is just appalling. It would be the most catastrophic loss.’
The huts have been located on the promenade since 2018 due to erosion caused by the Beast from the East storm but have spent winters there since the 1940s, according to the owners.
However, the council claims they cannot stay there permanently as they cause disruption to other visitors.
Ruth Dugdall, a crime novelist whose family has owned a hut on Felixstowe beach front for 20 years, said not enough consideration had been given to alternative arrangements.
Cllr Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council, said: ‘Safety is our absolute, number one priority and we have been clear to beach hut owners about this throughout a three-year examination of all options.
Ruth Dugdall, a crime novelist whose family has owned a hut on Felixstowe beach front for 20 years, said not enough consideration had been given to alternative arrangements
Cllr Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council, said: ‘Safety is our absolute, number one priority and we have been clear to beach hut owners about this throughout a three-year examination of all options’
‘The levels of erosion mean it is simply not possible for huts to return to the beach and their relocation to the promenade was only ever going to be temporary given the considerable disruption caused to other visitors.
‘We have now identified a number of alternative locations, however they are subject to consideration by the Planning Committee and no guarantees can be made about the outcome of this process. Therefore, the possibility remains, as has been communicated regularly to beach hut owners, that licences may need to be revoked.
‘This is clearly the last thing that we or anyone wants to happen. Fundamentally, this comes down to the aggressive changes in beach conditions which are affecting great swathes of the Suffolk coast.’
Cllr Gallant said the council was ‘working as hard as we possibly can’ to support the beach hut owners.
Although they may seem like they have been around forever, beach huts in their present form like at Felixstowe or Bournemouth were not invented until well into the 20th Century.
Although they may seem like they have been around forever, beach huts in their present form like at Felixstowe or Bournemouth were not invented until well into the 20th Century
Previously they were known as bathing machines which prudish beachgoers, including King George III and Queen Victoria, wheeled down to the shoreline to protect their modesty as they entered the sea.
The wheeled huts remained relatively unchanged in appearance from their introduction in the 1730s until as late as the 1930s.
Then as attitudes to the human body changed and it became publicly acceptable to show off more skin, the huts became permanent structures on promenades and undercliffs.
Today it is estimated that there are at least 20,000 beach huts located in seaside resorts across Britain.
They are now so sought-after that there are 10 year long waiting lists for council-run huts in some coastal areas of the country while private ones change hands for tens of thousands of pounds.
In September, Mudeford sandbank in Christchurch Harbour, went on the market for more than double the price of an average home at £575,000 – despite having no toilet, electricity or running water.
The tiny 13ft by 10ft timber cabin sits on the Dorset coast on a promenade well-known for being home to some of the most expensive beach huts in the country.
Nearby, other huts have faced bidding wars stretching into the hundreds of thousands of pounds for views of the Isle of Wight and English Channel.
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