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Huts 'costing too much' Pricing row as chalets let out on annual basis.

Byline: Dave Black

ICONIC beach huts built in a Northumberland seaside town are in danger of being priced out of the reach of ordinary people, an MP has claimed.

The 20 brightly-coloured chalets on Blyth Links were opened last year at a cost of pounds 200,000 as a throwback to the 1950s, when previous beach huts helped bring families flocking to the seashore in summer. When the new huts were planned by the former Blyth Valley Council in 2008 it was said they would be let on a yearly, seasonal, monthly, weekly and daily basis, to ensure as many people as possible were able to use them.

Now it has been revealed management agency Blyth Valley Arts and Leisure (BVAL) is letting 18 of the 20 chalets on an annual basis only - at a cost of pounds 800 each - to maximise income and reduce bureaucracy. The move has angered local MP Ronnie Campbell, who has written to BVAL to press for more to be made available for short-term lets in the interests of fairness. He fears ordinary people are missing out on the chance to enjoy the facilities.

Yesterday he said the original intention had been to let people use the huts to enjoy a day at the beach. "Allowing some of the huts to be rented in this way meant that people didn't have to find hundreds of pounds, but could afford to rent them as and when they needed them," he said.

"I think the fact the only people who can now rent the huts have to fork out hundreds of pounds means many are being stopped from enjoying this facility. The whole project was a brilliant idea but it is being let down because the huts are being priced out of the reach of ordinary folk."

Former Blyth Valley Council leader, Dave Stephens, said: "We have had a complaint people are being priced out of the chance to use the beach huts because of all the annual lets. We wanted as many people as possible to be able to use them and they should not be prevented from doing so because it is easier for BAVL to manage them this way."

Bruce Ledger, chief executive of BVAL, said the decision to let 18 of the chalets on an annual basis was taken to maximise income over the whole year while reducing the costs and officer time associated with managing the hire of the huts.

He said 17 are let to local people and one to the Blyth Valley Disabled Forum, leaving two for short-term lets. "These two are booked up for most of June and July and all of August, but we have very few bookings for the rest of the year.

"We feel that the opportunity is there for all the community to make use of these excellent facilities, but unfortunately demand exceeds supply during the peak summer school holiday season."

CAPTION(S):

AN EXPENSIVE DAY OUT? People enjoy the beach but, some say, can't afford to enjoy the new beach huts
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 19, 2010
Words:507
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