Beach huts plan moves forward
PUBLISHED: 12:30 30 January 2015 | UPDATED: 14:04 30 January 2015
AN £80,000 deal to bring beach huts to Weston seafront has been agreed - however the move has been criticised because the public still has five days to register objections.
North Somerset Council believes adding about 130 huts will boost tourism, but the scheme has raised concerns about access, ‘ruining’ picturesque views and detracting from the Beach Lawns.
Planning permission is being sought for up to 28 huts on the former bandstand opposite the SeaQuarium and 97 along the southern end of the promenade near Royal Sands.
The idea was first raised six months ago and the council says it has received more than 800 expressions of interest from would-be renters and plans to auction off the first batch of 24 huts next month.
No further details about the auction have been announced, although the authority this week confirmed ‘to purchase and install 24 huts’ at a cost of £80,000 and that Hut Garden Offices Ltd would supply them. The firm has previously supplied beach huts in Bournemouth.
However the contracts and budget announcements have drawn criticism from objectors to the plans.
With planning permission not yet agreed – and the public having until Wednesday to submit their views, for or against the scheme – some members of the public feel it is already a done deal.
Five objections have been sent to the council amid concerns over the impact the huts will have, especially on conservation and views.
David Vowles, of Uphill Road North, said: “It (the decisions already taken) smacks of rubber-stamping. I think it is quite alarming. The council has approval for money and the contract with Hut Garden Offices Ltd – I don’t know how it can award that right now.
“You don’t give a contract without first having permission. I feel quite upset about it.
“I get councils have to make a decision and don’t have to ask people every time, but something like this is quite disgraceful.
“The whole thing stinks. It smacks of something that has already been decided and will be justified later.”
Other objectors said the huts would take up too much room on the promenade and detract from the ‘natural beauty of the Beach Lawns’.
The council says views and promenade access will be unaffected and conservation regulations will not be breached, stating in its planning application that the locations proposed ‘currently appear stark and lack interest (and beach huts) will create character and bring charm to the seafront as well as add vibrancy and vitality’.
Mr Vowles replied: “How can you build something that is almost 2.5m high and 150m wide (on the promenade) and say it isn’t going to affect the view?”
A council spokesman said the planning application will be treated like any other. It has not yet been decided whether planning officers will make the final decision or whether it will go to the planning and regulatory committee for councillors to vote on.