Beach hut rescue plan blocked over ‘flood gates’ fear

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The beach huts at Hordle Cliff near Milford

A WOMAN has lost a bid to save her beach hut from coastal erosion over fears it would open the “flood gates” to others trying to rescue their seaside retreats from the elements.

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Katherine Rowland is one of dozens of owners at Hordle Cliff, near Milford, whose unstable beach huts are facing destruction as the shingle is swept from underneath by the waves.

As reported in the A&T, there was anger earlier this year when 20 were handed demolition orders by New Forest District Council, which cordoned off an area near the village as unsafe.

Miss Rowland, from Lymington, said she has been left with a 12ft drop outside hers and applied to NFDC for permission to shift it to a quieter part of the beach to the west.

She battled her Tourette’s syndrome – a condition in which sufferers make involuntary verbal and physical tics – to put her case to the planning committee at NFDC’s Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst.

She told councillors: “My disability severely limits my ability to enjoy the beach and the sea. I can’t swim. I can’t cope well with crowded beaches. This beach is quiet and ideal. That’s why I bought a beach hut here in the first place.

“A beach hut provides me with a retreat and an invaluable safe haven with health benefits to recreational benefits. Taking it away will be an enormous loss to me in terms of my mental health.”

Thirty-three objections had been lodged against her plan, warning it would set a precedent as the only hut set on the beach in a section where the others are lined up on the bank at the base of the sloping cliffs.

She argued any new huts would need to be decided on their merits and negotiate permission, as she had from the landowner, Barker-Mill Estates.

She also pointed to support from Milford Parish Council and the lack of objections from Natural England, NFDC’s landscape team, and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Miss Rowland was granted extra time to make her statement, because of her Tourette’s, and was given a round of applause by the committee as she finished.

However, members were advised by officials to reject her application for being in the green belt and spoiling the open character at that end of the shoreline.

Speaking for a group of objectors, Nick Haining warned the committee that approval would open the “flood gates” to similar plans.

He said: “It would adversely affect this part of the beach which has a very special tranquil character. Beach hut owners are concerned that more applications will follow from those who have lost their huts to erosion.”

The case was one of “head and heart” for councillors torn between Miss Rowland’s appeal and sticking to the council’s own planning rules, said Cllr David Harrison, who ultimately backed sticking to policy.

In support was Cllr Christine Ward, who said: “I find no objection to this. If you take the whole beach there are several huts on the shingle and it’s quite higgledy-piggledy. There are different huts and sizes and I think that’s attractive.”

Cllr Maureen Holding disagreed: “It’s very dangerous to put beach huts up in that area because of the movement of shingle whenever there’s a storm.

“Yes, it would set a precedent and, quite honestly, if a precedent is set, the whole thing would become a mess. You need some order in things.”

Cllr Sue Bennison said: “Clearly this beach hut would be very useful for this applicant but I have difficulty with this being sited on the beach. I like uniformity and I would prefer it to be sited on the bank.”

Several councillors advised Miss Rowland to come back with a new application located next to the ones already there. But she pointed out that area was even more protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and previous other proposals had failed.

The committee voted to refuse the application by 14 votes to zero, with two abstentions.

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