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Statement Re: The section of Hordle Beach that is closed

Beach Hut

Statement, 14 June 2018

Colin Read, Executive Head of Operations, said, "Whilst it is unfortunate this has happened, New Forest District Council are not the owners of the huts, and nor do we have any role in the upkeep of these private facilities. 

 "However, we are the land owners and our annual charge, which ranges from £461 - £823 , is for a licence fee to give the owners the right to have their huts on our land.  As such, we will continue to work with the beach hut owners to help them to fulfil their responsibilities to ensure their hut is safe.

 "With regards to the incident on Wednesday (13 June 18), our coastal team responded as soon as this was reported to us by cordoning off the area and putting up warning signs.

"Our coastal team will continue to monitor the beach, and building control will be assessing the situation as we would with any structure which has been reported as unstable."

Statement, 14 May 2018:

NFDC have assessed the site and are carrying out regular checks every 1-2 days. It has been noted that the beach has eroded at this location following wave conditions during mid-April, which caused temporary steepening to the beach. The profile is natural in appearance and is not dangerous. There is a differential of up to a metre between the top of the seawall beach level in places (this is variable along the wall). This level typically changes as the beach comes and goes. 

At this location the huts sit upon a shingle ridge at the top of the beach. The ridge is part of the naturally formed beach profile and can, therefore, change at any time in response to wave conditions.

The erosion has meant that some material has been lost from below the hut (Hut #261) and about 30% of the hut is undercut. The neighbouring hut to the west (Hut#262) has suffered minor undercutting around the front corner. The neighbouring hut to the east (Hut#260) is not undercut, but has very little beach width in front. 

The majority of Hut#261 is currently supported and, therefore, stable at present, however, further erosion is possible at any time, which could further undermine the huts causing a safety issue. If this did arise the council would intervene by fencing / closing any unsafe areas. It would then be the hut owners' responsibility for the timber buildings. It is likely that the beach will naturally recover to some degree, but this may take time. Further erosion is also likely as well. This all depends on future weather and wave conditions. 

Reason for occurrence: The Huts are located on a shingle beach, comprised of mobile material which naturally re-profiles in response to wave conditions. During mid-April, long period (destructive) ground swell waves caused significant erosion at this location and all along Hordle Beach. At this site the beach is narrow and any erosion here is likely to be more acute. The site is also adjacent to a hard defence (seawall), so there is likely to be some interaction with the wall.

Coast Protection: The beach is reacting as expected to wave conditions. The defence (seawall) is in good condition. The council does not undertake coastal protection works to protect beach huts; however, the council does undertake regular maintenance to the timber groynes, which help maintain the beach. 

The council is, therefore, not considering any works at this site. However, an offer has been made to hut owners that material could be pulled up from the lower beach, when a suitable machine is next working at this site (to do other work). This can only be done when (or if) shingle material returns to the site. 

Any other work would be very costly, would likely need an approved beach management plan and relevant marine licences and planning permission etc. 

NFDC response by letter to 7 hut owners in area concerned: 

I am writing in response to concerns that have been raised following erosion to the beach in the vicinity of a section of Hordle Huts (Nos 259-265 inclusive). 

Recent weather conditions have resulted in further draw down and erosion of the beach at this location. It is understood that the most significant changes occurred around 18th April 2018 and it appears that the beach along the entire Hordle frontage has been affected. The beach to the east which fronts Huts 259-265 is typically narrower than the beach further to the west and as a result has been particularly affected by the erosion.

Several requests have been made to the council regarding what action will be taken at this site. The response to these requests is that the council does not undertake coastal protection works to protect beach huts. Therefore, the council is not intending to recycle material from the west, it is not intending to recharge the beach with new material and it is not intending to install any other form of erosion defence (such as rock armour etc.). 

The stability of the huts, particularly 260, 261 & 262, have become a concern to the council due to safety issues caused by the undermining that has occurred. Although these huts are considered to be safe (at present) further losses could result in the huts becoming a safety issue. As a consequence, the huts are being regularly monitored by the council. If a safety issue does arise, it is the responsibility of the hut owner to make the hut safe. 

It should be noted that this particular area is known to be vulnerable to storm damage and the original huts sited at this location were destroyed in the Valentines Storm of February 2014. The vulnerability of the site was highlighted in the original planning permission issued for the replacement huts, with the following text:

'The applicant should be aware that there is always an inherent risk to any beach hut located in this area from inundation by the sea or damage from ground movement. The Council will not undertake coastal protection works to protect beach huts'

Cited from the planning application officers report for Hordle Hut 262 application no. 14/11151

Despite this standpoint, the council has agreed to undertake small amounts of work at this location in the past, following erosion of the beach. This has consisted of moving a small volume to reinstate the beach in front of the huts. This has only been undertaken when a suitable earth moving machine is operating near to the site and only if material is available from the lower beach or from the immediate vicinity; and only if by moving the material the beach is not negatively impacted or if the activity causes an issue for any other beach huts. 

It is likely that works to some of the coastal defences (located adjacently) may be carried out later in the year and if this is the case a small amount of beach reinstatement work would be considered again; however, this would only be possible if the material was available and would therefore need the lower beach to sufficiently recover first.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss further please do not hesitate to contact me.

In addition to this, other verbal correspondence with hut owners has also made reference to the following conditions of the Beach Hut Owners Contract Agreement:

35. In the absence of any negligence or other breach of duty by us, the location of the beach hut at the site and the use by you of the beach hut and the site is entirely at your own risk. The Council gives no warranty that the site will remain suitable for the purposes for which the licence is granted.

36. The location of the beach hut at the site is at the risk of the licensee. The Council shall not be liable for any damage or injury to person or property or any other loss suffered by you or visitors to the site save where the damage or injury to person or property is caused by the Council's negligence

Updated: 15 Jun 2018
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