As summer is coming, the rainbow-coloured huts along Bournemouth beach are ready to welcome holidaymakers. Bournemouth is home to the UK’s first public beach erected in 1909, and it is home to the award-winning beach pod designs in Boscombe Overstrand building.
In 2011, the first four accessible huts for disabled users, named The Seagull and Windbreak, were opened at Boscombe seafront, replacing five standard huts. Wheelchair users access the huts on a wooden track way, which leads straight to the waterline.
Dave Thompson, development manager of charity Access Dorset, which represents disabled people across Dorset, said the accessible beach huts were created in response to demand from people who cannot use traditional huts. The group worked with Bournemouth Council and architects to make sure the huts were suitable. Mr Thompson added that the huts have become popular among wheelchairs users and are regularly rented.
There are nearly 2,000 huts along Bournemouth beach, yet only four have disabled access. Each fits a maximum of four wheelchairs. While 70% of the beach huts are privately owned and the owners can provide access for disabled rentees, their size still remains a drawback.
“Normally the private beach huts are limited in size by the council, making it quite impractical to fit a wheel chair inside,” said Hagen Rose, founder of Beach-Huts.com. “It would just be possible with the addition of a ramp, but this ramp would also need to be stored in the hut, so it is again a space issue.”
According to Adam Philpotts, resort information assistant at Bournemouth Tourist Information Centre, the council have not made any improvements to the disabled-friendly huts, although frequent maintenance has been carried out.
“There haven’t been any changes to the accessible huts since their construction. The huts are cleaned and checked after each booking and any faults reported to the maintenance team.”
In response to concerns from private huts owners, Mr Philpotts said:
“Private hut owners are free to equip them as they wish for sub-letting, but the size of the hut will have certain limitations. The ‘super’ huts located at Alum, Durley and Fishermans Walk are large enough.”
All four accessible beach huts – colour coded in yellow, blue and green for identification – are located to the west of Boscombe Pier. Rentals are similar to the normal huts at £26 per day, but the daily price will increase to £40 during the summer period, starting on the 2nd of July.