A group of beach hut owners in Heacham have said they intend to take legal action against West Norfolk Council following steep rent increases.
Heacham Beach Huts Owners Association (HBHOA) has sent the council a pre-action letter ahead of formally initiating a judicial review, after it emerged that the group was looking at a 37 per cent rise in rent over the last two years.
Sally Pearse, chairwoman of HBHOA, had sent a Freedom of Information request to the council last month to ask how the new rent prices had been calculated.
She said: “The response confirmed that Heacham beach hut market rent was not determined by way of a mathematical calculation, but based on an assessment of recent comparable evidence.”
The market rent was assessed based on the bids received as part of a tender exercise for a vacant beach hut and site in July 2017, she said, and four bids were received at levels of £420pa and above.
“Given that only four bids for one vacant site have been the sole guide to determine market rent for 2018, we cannot allow this draconian way of working to continue any longer,” she added.
“Wells beach huts, which are a gem on the coastline and sell for £60,000, four times what beach huts sell for in Heacham, have an annual market rent of £300-£400 and this is inclusive of VAT.
“We are scheduled to pay £504 inclusive of VAT. Perhaps the council think the Heacham concrete flood defence is paved with gold!
“As stated previously, HBHOA will not challenge a market rent rise capped at three per cent for 2018.”
Alistair Beales, cabinet member for corporate projects and assets at West Norfolk Council, said: “If the Heacham Beach Huts Association wish to seek judicial review, they are perfectly at liberty to do so.
“We have had numerous email exchanges with the Heacham Beach Huts Association setting out the position.
“I have personally offered to attend their general meeting to address the matter directly with all parties. To date my offer has not been taken up.
“Under the terms of the lease, which all parties signed in 2016, an option was included that gave us the right to annually review the rent to the greater of either RPI or the market rate. That is what we have done.
“The rents for 2018 work out at just over £8 per week, which is exceptional value for beach front property.”