Government steps in to stop council sale of Bournemouth beach huts after 1,000 strong petition

  • ITV News Meridian's Richard Slee spoke to campaigners and local councillors

The controversial sale of beach huts in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole has been stopped by central government.

BCP Council had hoped to raise more than £50 million from the move to help fund the amalgamation of the three former local authorities.

However the plan sparked huge opposition from beach hut owners who signed a petition reaching more than 1,000 signatures.

Daniel Parkin, Save Our Beach Huts Campaign, said: "I just feel that selling or transferring these assets to a separate company, you might lose the protection that the council currently provides for the owners and visitors to the beach huts."

The Levelling Up Secretary, Greg Clarke, has now written to all local authorities telling them not to use "loopholes to do dodgy deals".

The beach huts generate around £5 million every year. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Councillor Vikki Slade, BCP Council Opposition Leader, Lib Dem, said: "Being honest about having spent the money and now needing to do transformation differently, this is about allowing all councillors to get involved with this and letting the residents know that this is the state the council is in.

"We need to get to basics, we need to run a council for local people for future generations."

The conduct of the conservative-led council has also been criticised by one local Conservative MP.

Sir Christopher Chope MP, Christchurch, Con, said: "The council was using a special purpose vehicle to try and sort out its budget problems instead of reducing its expenditure, living within its means and behaving like a proper Conservative council should.

"They were warned and persisted and that's why there is quite a lot of egg on the face over this weekend."

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Cllr Drew Mellor, Leader, BCP Council, Con, said: "We are absolutely committed to providing low council tax and keeping our assets for future generations.

"We made a point to government at the time that we should not have to go through complicated means to get there, the government should allow more flexibility.

"I had a conversation with Greg Clarke over the weekend and he says he's looking forward to working with us to deliver some of that flexibility so we don't need to use complicated measures such as our beach huts."

BCP Council has applied for a loan from the government to cover the shortfall in its budget that was to be plugged by the sale of the beach huts.

The 3,600 beach huts in the area generate £5 million of income every year.