Agenda item

To formally report the receipt of an e-petition submitted to the Council requesting that the Cabinet reconsiders its decision for all Beach Hut licences to be changed to leases.




(a)    Mr. Westall be thanked for his e-petition; and


(b)    the Leisure & Public Realm Portfolio Holder’s written comments regarding the e-petition be endorsed as Cabinet’s formal response to Mr. Westall’s e-petition.



Cabinet was informed that an e-petition submitted by Dale Westall, as lead petitioner, had been received on 30 June 2023. The petition had been signed by 164 persons and stated:-


We the undersigned petition the Council to have the Cabinet of the Council reconsider its decision that all Beach Hut licenses be changed to leases and further, we petition the Cabinet of the Council that Beach Hut Association members be shown the cost, length, and terms of the leases prior to them being put in place.”


Members were reminded that Beach Hut Licensing was an executive function and that therefore the Cabinet was the appropriate body to consider this matter.


It was reported that, in accordance with the Council’s adopted Scheme for Dealing with Petitions the receipt of this Petition had been reported, for Members’ information, to the meeting of the Full Council held on 11 July 2023. This matter had now been investigated and a report prepared and presented to the Cabinet on the basis that the Petition contained between 30 and 500 signatures.


The Deputy Chief Executive & Monitoring Officer’s written advice and assessment of the Petition was as follows:-


“It’s important to refer back to the legal requirements section of the February 2023 Cabinet Report, which confirms that in coming to decisions in relation to management of assets, the Council must act in accordance with its statutory duties and responsibilities.  Cases assessing principles of Section 120 of Local Government Act 1972 confirm that the Council is obliged to ensure that the management of its assets are for the benefit of the District.


Option for Beach Hut Agreements - The proposal in the February report was to move away from Licence Agreements to Leases from 1 April 2024.  Cabinet had the option however to maintain the status quo and continue to operate Beach Hut agreements through licences.  A licence only grants a personal right to use and occupy the site and place the hut in accordance with certain conditions (see current clause 2), it is not transferrable.  Some Beach Huts are being sold on the impression that the licence will be transferred to the new owner and this is legally not possible.  An application has to be made for a new Licence and the Council has the right to refuse, especially if the Hut is not compliant with the conditions of the former licence but in particular, (see current clause 4.11) the Council has a waiting list for our Beach Hut sites.  Licences offer less protection and permits the Council to make changes to terms and conditions, with minimum notice and providing notice to end agreements with 28 days’ notice (see current clause 4.4.2).


A lease is a legal interest and grant of a right to the exclusive possession of land for a determinable period of time.  It is important for both parties to understand the type of agreement into which they are entering.  With Beach Huts changing hands for very significant values, the lease agreements would provide protection to those making sizeable investments.  Despite huts being sold for tens of thousands of pounds, licences have no transferable value.


Furthermore, if licences were operated to their terms and conditions, there is no obligation on the Council to provide new licence agreements to any prospective new owner (see current clause 4.11).  As such, any ‘vacant’ licence (following a hut sale) could be offered to those on a waiting list, held by the Council.  This would be a significant risk to Beach Hut users, where as a lease would provide increased security of tenure and allow them to assign the benefit of their lease to a new owner.  If a decision is taken to continue with Licence Agreements, it is important that the lack of security this provides is clearly highlighted to potential hut owners when considering a purchase. 


Ultimately, it is important to ensure the correct legal status is given to the occupation of the Beach Hut sites and in accordance with the intentions of the parties.


The Land Registration Act 2002, together with the Land Registration Rules 2003, sets the categories of leases that are either compulsorily or voluntarily registrable. Section 27(2)(b)(i) of the Land Registration Act 2002 requires leases granted out of existing registered titles, that are for a term of more than seven years from the date of the grant are compulsorily registrable at the Land Registry.


The decision to approve the Heads of Terms for the Leases has been delegated to the Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Public Realm and consultation prior to these decisions being made could be undertaken, should the Portfolio Holder wish to do so.”


The Assistant Director (Buildings & Public Realm)’s written advice and assessment of the Petition was as follows:-


“The preceding Cabinet adopted the Beach Hut Strategy in February 2023. The broad aims of the strategy are to regularise the management arrangements around beach huts and to establish a sustainable legal, financial and practical position in relation to the operation.  The transition from licences to leases is intended to address some key issues and should benefit the Council and hut owners alike.


For the Council:


·      A five-year renewal cycle instead of one

·      Clearer terms and framework for enforcement

·      Addressing the uncertainties around the market for beach hut sales

·      Regularising a position around third party lettings and hires


For the hut owners:


·      Five-year security instead of one.

·      A real legal estate that can be transferred or inherited.

·      Clarity around responsibilities.


If the strategy overall is successful, all parties will benefit from greater certainty and ability to address issues that have concerned the parties at various of the beach hut locations. Officers recommend that the transition to leases is advisable and is likely to be advantageous to all of the parties.


The beach hut associations have been consulted on the draft lease for commercial huts and the Officer team is engaged in creating a finalised version that reflects the comments received, where appropriate.  The team will consult similarly on the leases for non-commercial users. Some resourcing issues have affected progress and ongoing programme is being reviewed. It is not planned that the transition to leases of itself will increase or decrease fees (rents). Of course, time and external factors will lead to general increases but these will not be driven by the nature of the agreement. Future fees (rents) will be set as part of the Council’s annual review processes.”


In addition, Cabinet had before it the following comments submitted by the Leisure & Public Realm Portfolio Holder:-


“I am aware that beach hut owners have been concerned by the proposed changes. I am also convinced that there is genuine need to get beach huts and coastal matters into a sustainable position and that availability of resources has for various reasons, challenged implementation during the current financial year.


I have asked the Officer team to refresh the timeline for the implementation of the strategy, including a phased transition to leases, and to review draft leases to make them as simple as possible, also review the presentation of strategy issues, including the development of simplified guidance and a frequently asked questions document. This in order to reassure hut owners to the extent possible, that changes are on balance positive for all involved.”


Dale Westall, the lead petitioner, had been invited to attend the meeting and to address the Cabinet to outline the reasons for the submission of the e-petition and what action they would like the Council to take. However, Mr Westall did not attend.


Having duly considered and discussed the Petition and in order to comply with the adopted scheme for dealing with petitions, as set out in the Council’s Constitution:-


It was moved by Councillor Barry, seconded by Councillor I J Hendersonand:-




(a)    Mr. Westall be thanked for his e-petition; and


(b)    the Leisure & Public Realm Portfolio Holder’s written comments regarding the e-petition be endorsed as Cabinet’s formal response to Mr. Westall’s e-petition.


Supporting documents: