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Griff Rhys Jones has joined local residents in a fight to save Britain’s oldest beach huts from being torn down and removed from the promenade by the council.
The 68-year-old actor has weighed in on the ‘David versus Goliath’ dispute over the location of the Victorian-era cabins, which date back to the 1880s and sell for £88,000 each in Felixstowe.
The colourful beach huts have overlooked the sea for almost 140 years and are understood to have been the first in the country – but East Suffolk Council has said beach erosion means they have to be moved.
However, as new locations for the huts still have to be approved, the hut owners still face the prospect of seeing their licences terminated completely.
Councillors want to move the 44 wooden huts from their desirable promenade spot – where they’ve been labelled an ‘obstruction’ to beachgoers – to other areas in the seaside town of Felixstowe, Suffolk.
Griff Rhys Jones (pictured) has joined local residents in a fight to save Britain’s oldest beach huts from being torn down and removed from the promenade by the council
In the 1930s, beach huts had become a must have at popular resorts such as Felixstowe in Suffolk, pictured, with row upon row of the structures built to meet ever-increasing demand
The colourful beach huts have overlooked the sea for almost 140 years and are understood to have been the first in the country – but East Suffolk Council has said beach erosion means they have to be moved
East Suffolk Council says ‘beach erosion and unpredictable conditions’ means they cannot be returned to the sand where they have stood for over 100 years and will now have to be moved or possibly demolished
The Victorian-era cabins date back to the 1880s and sell for £88,000 each
But Griff Rhys Jones has urged the council to preserve what are believed to be the UK’s first beach huts, which can sell for tens of thousands of pounds.
Griff, who lives in Suffolk, said: ‘I think everything should be done to preserve them. The beach huts are part of the British seaside experience. They are beautiful.’
Griff is the president of the Victorian Society, a charity that aims to protect Victorian and Edwardian heritage in the UK.
He added: ‘I’ve lived in the area for 40 years and I know Felixstowe very well. It’s my nearest seaside.
‘When my children were small they used to go to the beach. It’s where we go for ice cream and fish and chips.’
On Sunday, Griff shared an Instagram picture of him alongside locals campaigning to save the beach huts, which has gained around 3,000 likes.
He captioned the post: ‘Felixstowe. Keep your beach huts. The council want to get rid of them. Why?
Councillors want to move the 44 wooden huts from their desirable promenade spot – where they’ve been labelled an ‘obstruction’ to beachgoers – to other areas in the seaside town of Felixstowe, Suffolk
‘These good people are fighting to preserve what may be oldest shedloads of beachside gaiety in the land.
‘The Vic Soc is behind them. They are a treasure.’
The beach huts’ location near the town’s Spa Pavilion has been contested since 2018 when the ‘Beast from the East’ storm caused erosion to Felixstowe beach.
The huts, for which owners pay a £500 ground rent, have historically been on the beach in the summer and on the promenade in the winter.
But they were permanently moved to the promenade in 2018 due to the beach being deemed unsafe for them.
Councillors now want to move the cabins to other locations in Felixstowe as they claim they are obstructing the promenade for beachgoers.
But campaigners say the council has only found spaces for 30 huts, meaning that 14 owners will lose their beach huts.
But campaigners say the council has only found spaces for 30 huts, meaning that 14 owners will lose their beach huts
Ruth Dugdall, an author who has owned a beach hut with her family on the promenade for 20 years, said that they faced a ‘David versus Goliath battle’.
She said: ‘We’re not an obstruction. We’ve got 15 usable feet on our promenade.
‘The council are completely ignoring the history of the huts. If you move them you completely change how the area looks.
‘The council are digging in their heels. We don’t have any power. We’re David versus Goliath.’
Ruth has signed a petition to save the huts which has had 4,000 signatures since starting two months ago.
Felixstowe has more than 900 beach huts and they are notoriously expensive, with one selling for £88,000 last summer.
Julie Downton, secretary of Felixstowe Beach Huts and Chalet Association, is leading legal action against council-issued termination notices that ended hut owners’ licences on March 31.
She said: ‘What the council did to these people has been completely mismanaged.
Felixstowe has more than 900 beach huts and they are notoriously expensive, with one selling for £88,000 last summer
‘Once these beach huts go you’re losing part of Felixstowe’s heritage.
‘It would be a travesty if the council don’t keep the beach huts in this area.
Julie, who has owned a beach hut in Felixstowe for 35 years, added: ‘The council served termination notices in February and beach hut owners lost their licences on March 31.
‘We managed to stop them having to vacate on April 7 because of the legal action we launched.
‘The council only have room to move 30 beach huts, so 14 would have to lose their huts.
‘We desperately want mediation so we can take it right back to 2018 when the storm came in and these huts had to be moved.’
East Suffolk Council has previously said that it explored all reasonable options before deciding to relocate the beach huts.
An East Suffolk Council spokesperson said: ‘East Suffolk Council received notification that legal proceedings have been issued on behalf of beach hut owners in Felixstowe.
‘We will be writing to acknowledge service of this notification and it would not be appropriate to comment any further while our consideration is pending.
‘The Council has sought new locations for the beach huts at the Spa Pavilion site, in regular consultation with FBHCA, and has thoroughly explored all reasonable options, including beach platforms.
‘There is no safe option for their return to the beach, and the temporary solution, which impacts on other users of the promenade, is not a viable permanent option.’