After the great beach hut rush, the beach hut tax rise

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The Independent Online

An influx of moneyed urbanites has already earned it the title of Hampstead-on-Sea but now the Suffolk resort of Southwold is grappling with a new side-effect of affluence ­ a rise in beach hut tax.

An influx of moneyed urbanites has already earned it the title of Hampstead-on-Sea but now the Suffolk resort of Southwold is grappling with a new side-effect of affluence ­ a rise in beach hut tax.

Owners of the 248 brightly painted sheds along the town's well-heeled seafront warned of their staunch opposition yesterday after the local authority signalled it was considering a rise in the annual rates.

Huts in prime locations on the promenade of the genteel resort, where celebrities including Rowan Atkinson and Michael Palin have weekend retreats, now cost from £15,000 to £25,000.

The steep prices, which do not even entitle the owners to sleep in their huts (a practice forbidden by local by-laws), follow a property boom fuelled by Southwold's popularity among wealthy Londoners.

New money has spawned gastro-pubs offering London menus at London prices and has boosted demand for huts. It was only a matter of time before the local authority, prompted by one urban myth of a hut being sold for £40,000, took action.

Waveney District Council announced last week that it was concerned by the Great Hut Rush and was considering a review of the annual ground rent and rates of £180 to £250.

A council spokesman said: "We are hearing stories that beach huts are changing hands for a lot of money and it is only right that we investigate whether an appropriate charge is being made at present."

Pressure on housing in the town, where earlier this year a modest town centre property went on the market for £500,000, has led to at least two applications to build new huts on the promenade.

The local authority has told owners that its charges represent only a small proportion of what they would be legally entitled to charge and the rates would increase considerably if they were to reflect reality.

But the Southwold Beach Hut Association warned of a rebellion among its members if spiralling demand for the 12ft by 8ft sheds was used as an excuse to raise taxation.

Dr Slim Dinsdale, chairman of the association, said: "Most of the huts are owned by local people, many of them elderly, who could not afford a large increase. It would be passionately opposed."

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