Published: 06:00, 23 September 2019
Beach hut tenants say they are outraged over proposals to demolish the buildings and replace them with wooden versions.
The current pastel-shaded cabins have stood for more than 30 years along Folkestone seafront.
However, the cost of upkeep is reportedly one of the reasons behind the potential development being considered by Folkestone and Hythe District Council.
The project is rumoured to be priced at around a million pounds, although an exact figure is yet to be confirmed.
Bob Hyslop, a member of the New Folkestone Society, said he was troubled by the suggestion.
He said: “The district council have got this idea that they want to demolish these huts and replace them with wooden ones.
“With the south-west wind, if a vandal - because this is a lonely beach and we have had them before - were to set fire to one hut, the whole lot could burn.”
The huts were leased to a builder named Peter Kemp in the 1980s and he was the first to have the structures painted in the distinctive pastel colours.
When the district council retained the lease in January 2018, tenants say the prices of some huts almost doubled and they faced an obligation to purchase public liability insurance on top of a compulsory two-year lease.
One tenant, who asked not to be named, said: “The council have been claiming that there is a long waiting list for these huts but a number of them are empty. I would say 20-plus are empty despite this waiting list of apparently 40 people.
“So they increased the rent a lot two years ago, and haven’t rented out empty ones despite there being an apparent waiting list. You do wonder what is behind all of this.”
Pippa Hawley has had her hut for 25 years and is now facing losing it.
“We just want them left alone”, she said, “They can sell the rest of them [the empty huts] so that they get more rent to cover some of the costs.
“One of the expenses they have mentioned is damp but I can’t see how it can be an issue. I have had a painting in my hut for more than seven years and it hasn’t been damaged in the slightest, it would have been ruined if there were damp.”
Her friend Lynne Sheridan said: “This is about money over heritage at the end of the day.
“These buildings are iconic, you see them in paintings and postcards everywhere around here.”
The council emphasised that the move is only an option being considered, rather than a confirmed development.
A spokesman said: “An option to improve beach hut provision and potentially generate future income for the council is being explored.
“The trustees of the Folkestone Parks and Pleasure Grounds Charity are considering a report in October about the future of the beach huts and more information will be available after the meeting.”