The much-trumpeted new beach-huts – specially provided at Barry Island as part of a £3,000,000 Welsh Labour Government regeneration scheme – are losing money for the Vale of Glamorgan Council .
The latest financial report shows that hire-bookings have been so low (only 233 bookings over an entire season) the annual income derived from renting out the huts doesn’t even cover the costs involved in maintaining them.
The larger huts were available to rent at £30 a day and the smaller ones for £15 a day with spring/summer rates being £40 a day and £20 a day respectively. Soon the council had to amend its rates and allow pro-rata half-day hire to try to boost the take-up.
During one period , so slack was the demand for the huts that the Vale ‘cabinet’ member for regeneration, Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines), was letting them out free of charge:-
The huts have also suffered from vandalism . Shortly before Christmas 2014 , and less than two weeks after building work was completed, vandals unscrewed the door-numbers on 21 of the 24 huts . A few weeks later the locks were ripped off all 24 huts. Even though the beach huts are intended to provide privacy for families with children, the Vale of Glamorgan Council said it would be “installing CCTV cameras in the area very soon.”
The huts were part of a £3,000,000 Welsh Labour Government-funded regeneration scheme at Barry Island – but it appears no one did any market-research and the huts were built before the Labour-run Vale Council had any clear idea as to what to do with them.
Cllr Burnett said at the time “This is a new venture for the Council and it is intended that the beach huts will be hired to members of the public on a daily basis for the vast majority of the time. … As the beach huts are being used for the benefit of local residents and visitors to Barry we want to receive ideas from the public.”
In the event, demand from the public was patchy – and the huts weren’t hired out for anything like ” the vast majority of the time” . The Vale Council’s report says the 24 huts were available to rent from Easter 2015 to February 10th 2016. Out of a possible 7,512 rental days available (313 days X 24 huts) the council says that a total of only 233 bookings were made over the entire period. That’s an occupancy rate of less that 4%.
That slim number of bookings generated only £8,026 of revenue – less than the annual amount of council-tax payers’ money that is required to maintain the huts each year.
The council is now to examine “options” – including that of persuading a private enterprise operator to take them on – and operate them as a seafront concession .
Penarth Conservative AM Andrew R T Davies said the beach huts were a “white elephant of an investment”.
He said “The idea these huts would generate vast income to benefit the Island – acting as some sort of silver bullet – has been proved simply incorrect, as many local businesses predicted at the time.
Davies that rather than focussing on what he calls “their pet-projects“, the Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council “would be better placed in focussing and communicating with local businesses on the island to ensure a vibrant long-term future is delivered for Barry Island.”