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Bigger beach huts at Mudeford agreed despite fierce opposition

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SCORES of objections failed to stop controversial bids to extend around 75 beach huts at Mudeford.

The two applications by Avon Beach Ltd, for units 23-99, sparked concerns over the enlargement squeezing space on the promenade and encouraging anti-social parties.

After strong debate, BCP Council's planning committee gave the green light to keeping a row of huts at 63-99 that had each already been made longer by 1.6 metres, without authorisation.

Beach huts line the promenade overlooking Solent Beach near Hengistbury Head and Mudeford Quay
Beach huts line the promenade overlooking Solent Beach near Hengistbury Head and Mudeford Quay

It also approved a second scheme proposing to expand huts 23-62 by a similar scale, reducing the promenade's width to between 5-5.6 metres.

There were a combined 179 objections from residents plus opposition from local councillors and Christchurch Town Council. A total 42 letters were received in support of the plans.

The dual applications followed Avon Beach Ltd previously being refused permission for a combined submission that had been considered "unacceptable" by the planning committee, due to its impact on the width of the promenade.

The company, which rents the land from BCP Council, said their larger huts were a response to demand and over ten years the company had invested £3.2m in improvements to the area.

The new applications were recommended for permission by BCP planning officers, who described the extended beach huts as “not particularly large” and “comparable with other BCP area huts”.

The original Beach House Cafe at Mudeford (46595111)
The original Beach House Cafe at Mudeford (46595111)

Mudeford councillor Lesley Dedman claimed the enlarged size was already leading to antisocial behaviour, with parties going on “day and night”.

She said: “Because the huts are bigger it attracts parties and the parties have parties. The very fact that the beach huts are bigger encourages far more use of the promenade.”

Steve Alves, of Friars Cliff Residents Association, claimed extension of the beach huts to “double their previous size” had shrunk the promenade, which had been enhanced using public money.

He declared: “The extended huts are massively out of size, scope and mass from existing Avon Beach Ltd huts and traditional BCP beach huts.”

But Peter Hayward, a director of Avon Beach Ltd, said users were only allowed to have a single table and chairs in front and the promenade was constantly supervised and kept clear for the public.

He said: “Many beach huts on BCP seafronts are on promenades where the width is substantially less than five metres: Southbourne and Bournemouth beaches at 4.5 metres and adjacent Friars Cliff at three metres.

"All of these beach huts have been erected without the need for planning by BCP.”

Cllr Toby Johnson agreed: “They look like beach huts – they don’t look like castles dressed as beach huts. It does not impinge on the ability of people to walk along the promenade.”

However, Cllr Peter Hall could not support the application, which he said was out of character and would lead to a loss of public open space.

He added: “Christchurch Town Council did support the promenade with a massive amount of money to have it built – and the public expect to have a certain amount of right of way and they will lose that.”

Fellow Christchurch member Cllr Stephen Bartlett highlighted the number of objections, adding: “It’s easy to see when a number of people are using the beach huts they would encroach onto the promenade at busy times and make it a pinch point.”

Cllr Steve Baron told the meeting he was “struggling with the assumption that larger huts would encourage people to have acid house raves”.

Cllr Marion Le Poidevin suggested the promenade's space could be protected by painting white lines to show beach hut users where they could place tables and chairs.

She said: “It you go towards Poole, there are all sorts of beach huts. I really cannot see the problem.”

Both schemes were permitted by nine votes to four.

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