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Police forces in coastal areas are urging beach hut owners to pay attention to security in response to reports of break-ins, burglary and vandalism. Beach huts have been an intrinsic part of the British seaside since Victorian times and the value of these ‘sheds-by-the-sea’ has skyrocketed in recent years. In this post we provide practical security advice that will help keep them safe.
The majority of UK seaside resorts feature collections of what are often attractive, brightly coloured beach huts. Popular since the Vicotorian era, beach huts have gained renewed interest due to many people choosing to take their annual holidays in the UK, rather than travel abroad. And with compact beach huts featuring in TV design and property makeover programs including Alan Carr’s ‘The Great Interior Design Challenge’ and ‘George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces’, the popularity of beach huts is growing.
Early beach huts were originally much smaller, primarily used for discretely changing into swimwear. They evolved from early bathing machines, used by beachgoers in Georgian and Victorian times to uphold the rules of sea-bathing etiquette. While it was acceptable for men to frolic on the beach in their fashionable beachwear, being seen in what was considered ‘improper clothing’ was totally forbidden for women. Ladies would demurely change into their bathing suits inside the bathing machines which would be rolled into the sea, usually pulled by a horse or sometimes human-powered. After enjoying their sea bathing they would return to their bathing machine and signal the driver to come and fetch them by raising a flag on the roof.
Today’s beach huts continue to be used for changing into and out of swimwear, but they no longer need to be dragged into the sea by horses.
One of the primary benefits cited by beach hut owners is coping with the ever changing British weather. When the weather turns bad, beach huts provide sanctuary from the wind and rain.
They are also often used to prepare food and enjoy picnics with far less sand getting into the sandwiches. Some owners equip their beach huts with basic camp-style cooking facilities and use their huts for socialising with family and friends.
Questions often asked about beach huts include: ‘are you allowed to sleep in a beach hut’ and ‘can you live in a beach hut?’ For the vast majority of UK beach huts sleeping in them is not permitted as only daytime use is allowed. Most beach huts are leasehold with their plots owned by and rented from local councils who define the rules for beach hut use. Beach huts that do allow overnight stays tend to be larger in size (sometimes called lodges or chalets) and have freehold tenure.
Given the increased popularity of UK based vacations it`s not surprising that the prices of beach huts have significantly escalated. But as foreign travel restrictions are lifted and people are bravely tackling the chaos at airports and travel hubs, prices are reported to have declined since the surge in 2021.
Currently, the average price for a beach hut is estimated to be around £27,500 with additional ground rent costs. But in September 2021 a beach hut was on sale in Mudeford Spit, Dorset at the record-breaking price of £575,000. At 16ft by 13ft this cabin was slightly larger than it`s neighbours which are around 12ft by 10ft. The monthly rental cost for one of these high-end seaside huts in Mudeford is £3792 - around £126 per day.
People often ask, are beach huts a good investment? Given that beach hut prices increased by a staggering 41% in 2021 it certainly looks like there is money to be made. But investors need to be very aware of ongoing rental charges and essential maintenance costs, which can be significant.
Sadly, UK police forces are facing a growing number of crime incidents related to beach huts. And given that our police forces are under-resourced and the cost-of-living crisis is anticipated to spark a surge in acquisitive crime, it`s likely that beach huts will be recognised as relatively easy targets by criminals.
Beach hut related crimes include break-ins, burglary and criminal damage. Police forces are dealing with reports of what are sometimes reoccurring break-ins, often carried out at night when beach huts aren’t in use.
Seven beach huts on Shoebury Common beach suffered significant vandalism and damage with holes punched through doors and panels broken off. Criminals broke in, ransacked the huts and stole anything they thought they could sell. Hut owners say this is an annual occurrence and they have no confidence that the police will do anything to help. Although there are plans to deploy CCTV in the area supply-chain issues affecting digital equipment are delaying the installation.
In Whitstable arsonists set fire to three beach huts and broke into others. The attack was the latest in a spate of vandalism plaguing beach huts in the area. The blaze completely destroyed one beach hut and seriously damaged two neighbouring properties which meant they all needed to be demolished and replaced.
After receiving reports of break-ins to beach huts in the Lancing area of East Sussex the Adur and Worthing Police neighbourhood policing team have started conducing patrols in the area. They are also reported to have increased the police presence around Bognor after receiving reports of antisocial behaviour.
In Brighton and Hove, beach hut owners have experienced significant damage due to escalating antisocial behaviour. In a recent incident a group of around 200 people were moved on by local police after receiving reports of antisocial behaviour in the area. Youths were photographed running over the row of beach hut rooftops and observers report seeing them pulling pieces of wood from the roofs which they had badly damaged.
Kent police have recorded reports of a number of beach hut locks damaged in Sea Road, Westgate where burglaries took place. Items stolen included a telescope and a pair of binoculars. And binoculars, saucepans and paddleboards are reported to have been stolen from a beach hut in Westbrook Bay.
These reports demonstrate how beach huts are extremely vulnerable, even when located in populated locations. Unfortunately, they are often the target of mindless vandals who cause a great deal of expensive damage.
The locations in which beach huts are situated often makes them relatively easy targets. Seaside beach huts, remotely located away from populated, built up areas, will often attract groups of youths who sometimes indulge in antisocial behaviour and vandalism. And criminals are on the lookout for beach huts in which they know valuables are stored. It`s vitally important that beach hut owners take adequate precautions to keep their property safe and secure.
Police forces have responded to the need for stronger beach hut security by publishing helpful guidance for hut owners. Here are some key recommendations that will help keep your beach hut safe and secure.
Police records show that vandals tend to target run-down, poorly maintained beach huts. It`s therefore recommended that you look after your beach hut, ensure it`s always in a good state of repair and looks tidy and cared-for. Beach hut maintenance also needs to consider the ravages of seaside storms which can, for example, weaken structures making huts more susceptible to break-ins and criminal damage. Metal elements including hinges, hasps and staples are particularly susceptible to corrosion so it`s important to use the best quality components and regularly inspect them to detect deterioration before it becomes a problem.
It`s recommended that the strength of your beach hut structure is examined and, as far as possible, bolstered. Hardwood should ideally be used for the frame and it should be securely fixed to the ground. All wall panels should be securely attached to the frame using extra long frame fixings and / or coach bolts as standard nails and screws don’t provide adequate security. It`s also worth using corrosion resistant fixings and fastenings. The installation of a steel weld mesh, securely fixed to the hut frame and sandwiched between the outer skin and inner lining, is recommended by some police forces.
Doors and windows should use high quality hinges that can withstand corrosive salt water and both door and window frames must be robust and securely fixed to the frame. Window security can be strengthened using window bars and lockable window shutters provide additional security when the hut is locked up.
Door security can be significantly enhanced with a steel shed bar that locks in place across the main beach hut door. It`s important to make sure the door security bar fixings are bolted through the frame structure and attached to immovable steel plates on the inside. Doors with solid core construction should be used but if this isn’t possible then the existing door should be strengthened with exterior grade plywood or possibly galvanised sheeting.
And its advisable to make certain there is no accessible space under the beach hut that can potentially be used by arsonists to start a fire.
It`s important to be aware of how corrosive salty sea water is when selecting locks and other metal components for a beach hut. It`s surprising how often this is overlooked, resulting in corroded locks that can no longer be opened with a key after being exposed to coastal weather for just one winter.
Doors should be secured using weatherproof padlocks both at the top and the bottom. High quality, marine grade padlocks, such as the Burg Wachter Atlantic range, are ideal for this application. We have reports of these locks continuing to provide reliable service in arduous coastal weather conditions for more than 20 years.
One of the primary security recommendations for beach hut owners and users is never to leave valuables in the hut. Be aware that while using the beach hut you and your family may be observed by people with criminal intent. If they see you using a fancy telescope, or maybe a collection of body boards or other beach equipment, they might be tempted to break in if they don`t see you taking these valuables away with you. This is why the police advise beach hut users to never leave anything of value in their huts.
There will always be some items, such as deck chairs and your beach hut furniture, that can’t be packed up and taken home. Security marking these items and making it clear that they have been labelled will help deter thieves and aid in identifying ownership if items are ever stolen.
It`s essential to remove any combustibles, such as gas canisters and matches, from inside beach huts and never leave rubbish lying around outside that could be used to ignite a fire. Arson is one of the most common crimes suffered by beach huts as their wooden construction and close proximity to neighbouring huts means damage can often be extensive.
If booze-seeking criminals know there is alcohol inside a beach hut there is a good chance it will be targeted. That’s why it`s important to always take alcohol home with you, along with your valuables.
Beach huts should be built using appropriately treated, fire retardant materials. As mentioned, arson is a significant concern for beach hut users so fire retardant paint and other materials should always be used.
It`s important to never leave anything outside a beach hut that can be used to commit crime or encourage vandalism. For example, a piece of outdoor furniture that could be used to climb onto the roof will inevitably attract the attention of youngsters who love to climb.
Establishing relationships with neighbouring beach hut owners and those who live nearby, can help in building beach hut awareness. Always look out for signs of damage or attempted beach hut break-ins to your own and other beach huts and report all incidents to the police.
Battery powered alarms are widely recommended by police forces. Since beach huts don’t have mains power, batteries are needed as the power source. If possible, a monitored alarm system might be used.
Following these sensible precautions doesn`t guarantee your valuable beach hut will not be targeted by criminals but they will help. And it`s important to make certain you have adequate and appropriate insurance cover for your beach hut and it`s contents. Specialist beach hut insurance cover is needed as these seaside structures face different risks from inland structures built from bricks and mortar.
If you have any questions about what you can do to keep your beach hut safe or if you have any special requirements remember we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll provide free, expert advice.
This message was added on Thursday 9th June 2022
Need Help or Advice?
Call the Insight team
01273 475 500