BEACH hut owners have branded as “disgusting” a council threat to kick them out unless they sign up to a ten per cent sales tax on the properties.

Now a fight is looming, with protests planned for a council meeting and opposition councillors on the warpath.

In January, Brighton and Hove City Council decided to increase the fee it charges when beach huts change hands – from £82 to ten per cent of the sales value.

The 459 huts sell for up to £25,000 so that could be as much as £2,500 – an increase of 3,000 per cent. The council said the change brings Brighton and Hove into line with neighbouring councils.

But while Worthing and Rother both charge ten per cent, Seaford charges just £25, Hastings charges £120 and Arun charges £500.

To enforce the new rules, the council now has to get owners of the huts to sign a new contract, which includes the amended terms and conditions.

It is threatening to force hut owners to tear down their huts at their own expense unless they comply.

Yesterday on Hove beachfront, Margaret Wishart was enjoying her 66th birthday with her extended family who had come over from Ireland.

Her beach hut has just been rechristened “Teeny’s Hut” in honour of her late sister, Martina.

Margaret said: “I think that’s disgusting. We pay ground rent of £300 or £400 a year and we have to insure the huts – that costs £500 or £600.

“There’s no security down here – dozens of huts got broken into the other day – and the toilets are disgusting. I’m shocked. I’m going to contact my neighbours. We’re going to have to protest.”

Her daughter Roisin said: “This has been my mum’s dream since she moved to Brighton. To take away that much money is really harsh.”

Another owner, Melita Dennett, said: “I wasn’t aware they could throw us out for that. I’m quite shocked.”

Conservative Councillor Robert Nemeth said: “I have fought the administration’s increased licence fee and their 3,000 per cent increase to the sales tax from day one.

“I managed to beat the licence fee increase for this year by discovering that the administration sent out notices late. Rather than take the situation in good grace, the Labour administration is now threatening to enact a draconian clause within the terms and conditions.

“They are negotiating with a gun to the head of the families who have saved hard and invested in an integral part of Hove’s character.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The licences provide for termination by the council on at least one month’s notice. In such an eventuality the council may require that the beach hut is removed from the site. The terms of the licence will be enforced should the need arise.”

The tourism committee discusses the plan on Thursday.