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An update to the Campaign for the new Site Lease

Posted on 26th February, 2013

I last posted an update on 5th January. Since then an enormous amout of work has been done by the Joint Committee for the negotiations with the City Council.

 

1) We have spoken at a Council Committee regarding the size of the new charges that CCC  propose

2) we have met Peter Vickery-Jones who for  awhile will be Portfolio Holder for the Foreshore

3) we have met with CCC's representatives to discuss the various issues.

4) work in the background

 

We have made progress but there is much more to do.

 

1 Overview Committee  Three of us gave speeches at the Overview Committee held on 23rd January. Our points were well received but the format of such meetings is such that there is little to see directly.

 

2 Meeting with Peter Vickery-Jones  Peter as usual gave us the benefit of his experience and goodwill. He was Portfolio Holder for several years but his brief was changed in the general resuffle that occured in April 2011. He is currently serving in this position following the removal of Neil Baker from this role. Unfortunately Peter will probably not be in this role beyond the annual re-shuffle in April -May 2012.

 

The purpose of the meeting was to inform him of the nature of the problems that we face wil the Council Budget for the year 2013-14 and various other issues that we currently face. He told us a lot about how and why things had developed. Clearly we emphasied that in our view the Council Charges were far too high.

 

It was a very useful meeting for both sides.

 

3) We have also had a set piece meeting with Suzi Wakeham who is the head of The Outdoor Leisure Department. Richard Griffiths and Janet Taylor who is the deputy head of the Legal Department.   Again a most useful meeting but we have learned that it is necessary to regard CCC' with very great care.

 

The Administration Charge. This is the new charge on selling Huts at £360 plus VAT. That will not be charged in year 2013-14

 

The Charge for Adaptaions. This mainly affect the Huts at Tankerton. It will be charged from April 2013 but we will be involved in the review of which huts are to be charged.

 

Sub-letting Fees  There are a small number of Huts that are sublet on what amounts to a commercial basis. The owners of thse huts will be informed about the charge which will be levied in April.

 

User Pays It seems that the Council is working on the basis that "the user pays".  We have demonstrated to CCC that the Hutters contribute a substantial profit to the Council Budget and in our opinion this particular user certainly does pay.

 

New Tenancy Agreement    We have been given CCC's latest draft of the Tenacy Agreement. It once more offers a year by year rolling term without the cap that they have been talking about over the last two years.  We were told that almost everything else was to be reviewd over the next three months

 

Next Meeting

It has now been confirmed that we are meeting the Council's Team on Thursday 21st March 2013

 

 

Some Letters sent to Richard Griffiths

Posted on 5th January, 2013

Mr R Griffiths

Community Development & Outdoor Leisure

Canterbury City Council

Military Road

Canterbury

CT1 1YW

 

8th December 2012

Dear Mr Griffiths

Thank you for your letter dated 5th December 2012. I have carefully considered its contents and would make the following comments and objections. As you are well aware I am part of the team from the two Beach Hut Owners Associations but this letter is in respect of my personal capacity as the owner of Hut 61 West Beach Herne Bay.

You state in several places that consultation has taken place between CCC and the Owners Associations with the implication that we are in agreement with the proposals. You should be aware that none of the proposals are specifically agreed and there are some with which there are total disagreement.

 Administration Charge of £360 plus VAT. Your letter is the first intimation that this charge is proposed. It is not clear what is meant by this charge. Upon what sales is it to be levied? Is this for “sales” or does it include all inter family changes? Your letter is not at all clear as to who is expected to pay this fee.

 You say in your letter that the Council do not at present charge for the administrative changes on a Sale. However prior to the introduction of the Transfer Fee of 5times rent there was such a charge and the last reference that I can find on the CCC Website is for year 2009-10 when it was £81 including VAT. Presumably it is currently subsumed into the 5 time Rent fee for which CCC Charge £1,340 at HB and £1,785 for Tankerton.

 How do you justify the size of this new fee? The work that is described would not appear to that onerous. It was previously charged at only £81 including VAT. The amount of work would not seem to have charged. The receipts that the Council achieve on a Sale are already high but this is frankly monstrous.

 I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

 Yours faithfully

 Alan Ratford Hut 61 Herne Bay.

..

A General Letter to our Members

Posted on 5th January, 2013

 

Herne Bay Beach Hut Owners Association

20 School Lane

 Herne Bay

Kent

CT6 7AL

01227 361633

alan.ratford@hernebaybeachhuts.com 

 5th January 2013

 

 It is time to inform you of several important matters.  Things have been happening rather quickly over the last couple of months.

 At the end of November our friends at Tankerton held their AGM.During that meeting the members were brought up to date regarding the state of the discussions regarding the Proposed Lease for the sites upon which our Huts stand. As you will be aware the Councils recommendation is that we should be granted a lease that has a life of six years that may be renewed. That sounds fine except that the proposal is that we may only renew the lease five times making a total life of 30 Years.

  

Richard Griffiths, the Council officer in charge of these negotiations tells us that in about year 25 they will start negotiations for the renewal of that Lease. Whilst that would be honourable we have grave doubts about the Corporate Memory of the Council over a period of twenty five years.

  

During the period of our lease we will continue the right of free transfer of our huts when we wish to pass them on to a family member. Also, should we wish to sell our huts then the present charge of a fee of Five times the annual rent, will continue.  The problem is that the Council is intending to give a new lease that will end on the same date as the original lease was due to expire. This we find unacceptable. Presently we have a lease that has value. If the leases are renews on the principal proposed then they will gradually reduce in value. That has the danger that the Huts become unsalable and then people may cut back on the standards of maintenance, which is the factor that can make the line of Huts so attractive. 

 

You will not be surprised to hear that the meeting unanimously rejected these proposals.

 

So what are we doing? Well, a number of things have happened in these few weeks.

 

You will have seen the Newspapers reports in the Herne Bay Times and also in the Whitstable Times. It is possible that you heard me talking on Radio Kent, recorded at a ridiculously early time on a very drafty day on the Beach. To get a dozen people out at 7:30 on such a morning was amazing and greatly appreciated.

 

 More substantively, a new joint committee has been formed to completely review the situation and to create a new strategy to completely regenerate our negotiating stance over such important matters.   This new committee has met several times and an incredible number of emails have crisscrossed Kent in our discussions about all kinds of relevant matters.

 

As you know R Griffiths wrote to all Hut Owners at the beginning of December. That letter attempted to advise Hutters of other proposals from the Council regarding Rents and charges for the coming year. Many of you have written to object to the many extortionate charges proposed and some of these ideas are frankly absurd.

We greatly appreciate the effort involved in those responses particularly at this time of year.

 

 Best wishes

 

 Alan Ratford

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Fight them on the Beaches

Posted on 9th December, 2012

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Herne Bay Times Report

Posted on 8th December, 2012

By Emma Cooney       Published in Herne Bay Times 6th December 2012

 

CANTERBURY City Council is threatening to limit beach hut owners to a 30 year lease.

The news drew a shocked response from owners this week.

STORM BREWING?  Beach huts in Herne Bay Picture by Julia Geeves

 

Derick Tyrrell of Savernake Drive, Broomfield, paid £8,000 for his hut three years ago.He said: "I didn't buy my hut to be told in 30 years I have to get off the beach. I should be able to pass it on to whoever I want. It could be a legacy to pass on to my children and their children."

 

Alan Ratford, chairman of Herne Bay Beach Hut Owners Association, said opposition is unanimous.

He added: "At the moment I can sell my hut without restriction. If there is a 30-year cap, then obviously the value of the hut decreases. It is not a problem for today, but it will be tomorrow.

 

"We cooperate very well with the council but this is a major stumbling block."

 

The news leaked out during a meeting of the neighbouring Tankerton Bay Beach Hut Owners Association annual meeting. It is estimated it could affect 300 hut owners locally.  The city council wants to force beach hut owners to move out after a maximum of 30 years. At the moment leases can he renewed every year.

 

Under new proposals the lease would be renewed every six years for a maximum of 30 years. After that, owners would have to remove their huts from the beach or sell them. The council also wants to levy a £1,300 fee if the huts are sold.

 

In a separate row, the council has angered boat owners, with plans to charge them £100 a year to leave their vessels on the beach. Warning notices have been attached to boats. The notices say: "Following a recent review, Canterbury City Council is consulting on introducing a charge for various activities and services provided for Foreshore Services. The proposed fee of £100 plus VAT would come into effect as of April."   The notice adds that "feedback is welcome".

Boat owner Pete Revell, from Charles Street, said: "Is the council going to start charging people to sit on the beach next?  "What are these services? Are they going to polish the boats? Or is it for ensuring the boats are safe with regular patrols along the seafront to make sure they are all ok? If so, it sounds like a protection racket which, I think, is illegal."

 

Mr Revell is a member of Heron Angling Club, which has 13 boats used by fishermen and photographers.

He said: "Some of the smaller row boats aren't even worth £100, but they are an important part of the seafront. People coming to the seaside want to see beach huts and boats."

 

City council spokesman Steve James said: "The council is engaging in confidential conversations with beach hut owners.  "The finite lease is merely speculation. No conclusions have been reached.

 

"He did not comment on the boat notices.