A planning probe has been launched to investigate a controversial row recently extended beach-huts that have caused divisions between locals and tourists at a popular seaside spot.

The company that ran the classic wooden beach houses added 6ft to the lengths of some properties, causing fear among residents in Christchurch, Dorset, that they were taking over public promenade.

Avon Beach Ltd had requested retrospective planning permission for the 37 longer wooden huts, and permission to extend 41 more huts at Avon Beach. This was in order to reduce the promenade’s width by more than one metre. 

99 letters of objection were received, but 110 people supported the plan, including tourists from London, Essex, Kent, and Leicestershire.

Some objectors claimed the company only contributed to its beach hut expansion. Bournemouth Council, Christchurch Council, and Poole Council denied Avon Beach Ltd’s retrospective planning application, prompting an enforcement investigation. 

Those who objected accused the restaurant owners and made the promenade too narrow, and claimed they had transformed a beach cafe into a ’emporium’ by submitting a drip feed plan application. 

A planning probe has been launched into a controversial row of recently extended beach huts that have divided both locals and tourists at Avon Beach, Christchurch

A planning probe was launched to investigate a row of controversially extended beach huts at Avon Beach, Christchurch. This row has caused a divide between locals and tourists.

Michael Smith from Christchurch commented: ‘This retrospective planning application is the 21st made by the tenants over the last eight years.

“A drip feed that transforms a small beach cafe into a large, low-grade jumbled of buildings. It was impossible to allow this under one application.

“Additionally, many of the applications, including this one, were retroactive, indicating a total disregard for the rules and the feelings of local residents…

‘My main concern concerns the 75% size rise that completely uses the additional promenade length that was paid for from public funds (our taxes) to increase the applicant’s profits. This cannot be allowed.

Sophie Morris, another local resident, stated that she objected strongly to any increase in size for any of the beach-huts. The promenade on Avon beach is very busy and crowded during the summer.

It is not logical to increase the size and number of beach huts in order to benefit a single trader at great expense to everyone else. This includes people who pay council tax that goes towards this public land.

“Saying yes” to the request for more beach huts would indicate a low priority by the council for the spread Covid 19. Public safety, disabled access, right-of-way and the voice of residents.

The huts measure just 7ft in width, but some have been extended to reach 13ft 7in. The enlarged huts are rented out an extra £70-per-week and up to £420 more for longer hire. 

Avon Beach has 130 huts and the privately-owned ones change hands for up to £80,000.

The promenade at Avon Beach was raised and widened at a cost of £500,000 in 2017 to protect it from storm flooding. The work was largely funded by taxpayers’ money, with Avon Beach Ltd contributing ten percent (£50,000) towards the development. 

If the proposals were accepted, the existing promenade could have been shortened by as much as 1.3m in some cases.

Some objectors said Avon Beach Ltd had only contributed so it could extend its seafront properties. Pictured above: Concept image of an existing beach hut

Some objectors claimed Avon Beach Ltd had only contributed in order to extend its seafront properties. Above: Concept image of an existing beach house

BCP (Bournemouth Christchurch Poole), the council’s planning committee, and the enforcement team rejected the application. However, Avon Beach Ltd plans on submitting a new application next week.

The planning committee denied permission.

“The promenade would be narrower, making it difficult for all users to access the space. Seating, tables and other beach paraphernalia that are placed beyond the beach-huts would also make it difficult for people to walk, cycle, pushchairs or use wheelchairs or scooters.

A spokesperson for the BCP Council stated that they were aware that beach huts are not authorized and that there is an enforcement investigation into the matter.

“The council will need decide what action to take in light a potential breach or planning control.”

A spokesperson for Avon Beach Ltd stated that they were currently resubmitting the application for beach hut planning. They also work closely with the planning department of BCP Council.