Work is underway to remove £750,000 worth of beach huts that were condemned after being battered by winter storms.

Thirty-one wooden cabins were either destroyed or written off after the fragile cliff they stood on was washed away.

Their owners say they were left helpless after the local council 'abandoned' the stretch of coastline as part of its 'do nothing' policy to coastal erosion.

The loss of the huts at Hordle Cliff, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, has left their devastated owners about £25,000 out of pocket.

To add insult to injury, they now have to pay £300 each towards the £10,000 operation to remove the 31 huts.

The colourful huts are privately owned but found on council land, for which the owners have to pay an annual licence fee, according to New Forest District Council.

Some owners paid their £800 a year fee for 2023/24 in advance and so were due a refund for the six months the huts have been out of use.

The money for the operation will be taken out of this refund.

But 17 huts had been cordoned off for over a year and those owners were not billed for 2023/24.

Instead they are being asked to make a £300 contribution.

One of those is Janice Beech, who said: 'It is sad to see them go but I haven't been able to use my hut for the last two years and so I have gotten used to not having it.

'I didn't pay any rent for the last year but I have been asked by the council to make a voluntary contribution of £312 towards the removal now.

'The hut owners are responsible for their own huts and even though it isn't their fault, there is a moral obligation to make a contribution.

'I will pay it but I know there are some angry people who don't want to pay.'

A spokesperson for New Forest District Council said the affected huts are on the eastern section at Hordle Cliff that is exposed to beach erosion.

Steve Cook, coastal service manager, said: 'We have actively engaged with hut owners and the New Forest Beach Hut Owners Association, and have every sympathy with those who have experienced impacts at this very challenging coastal area.

'The removal of the huts is a challenging operation, made more difficult by the limited beach access and tidal working. We hope to complete the works before the end of June and reopen the beach for residents and visitors to enjoy in the summer months.'

A spokesperson for the council added: 'Under the licence conditions, it is the beach hut owner's responsibility to remove the hut from the site.

'However, due to the access issues and scale of the works, we are managing the removal through an external contractor.

'In order to fund this, hut owners have been advised of the requirement to contribute towards the removal costs.

'This is through either forgoing any refund due for 2023/24 or for those not invoiced for 2024/25 licence fees. We took the decision to withhold invoicing those owners as access had been lost. We then needed to seek a contribution payment.'

The wood from the beach huts will be recycled.

The council is also reminding people interested in spending thousands of pounds on buying a beach hut to contact its coastal team about the ongoing threat of erosion.

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2024-06-12T14:24:32Z dg43tfdfdgfd