A legal battle is brewing over a row of beach huts in Weymouth which are blamed for contributing to problems of anti-social behaviour.

Hoteliers say they are fearful of a repeat of last summer's problems after a row of huts was set up on Weymouth beach – in the face of opposition from the local authority.

But the huts' owners say the structures are part of Weymouth's seaside tradition – and that removing them would not tackle the roots of the town's rife anti-social behaviour.

Owners of guesthouses on Brunswick Terrace said they had been taken by surprise when the 25 huts were put up on the beach adjacent to the road on Sunday.

As reported in the Echo last year, rowdy behaviour among youths at the huts left many hoteliers on the strip concerned for their safety and the reputation of their businesses.

It led to meetings with the police and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, and subsequently the council did not give permission for the huts to be put up this year.

Melaney Noone has only been in charge of Channel View guesthouse since March, but said she had heard from her neighbours about last summer's problems.

"I am curious, and concerned, especially about safety," Ms Noone said. "When you have people drinking, being sick, the police coming every day, guests are going to feel anxious. It's very short-sighted."

Diane Rogers, who has run the Seaspray guesthouse for the last 11 years, concurred that there had been a lot of problems last year.

"It's not doing Weymouth any favours," she said, adding that there would be less of a problem if the structures were lockable.

Tony Sawyer of The Windsor, another guest house, meanwhile noted that even council staff had been surprised after the huts were put up.

"This has been done to antagonise business owners along Brunswick Terrace," Mr Sawyer said. "The beach huts are becoming a spectacle on the seafront."

Other hoteliers pointed to public vomiting, urination and sexual acts as examples of the antics in and around the huts last summer.

Meanwhile Mickey Jones, CEO of DJ Property, which owns the huts and rents them out, acknowledged that the council had issued an order for the huts to be removed at the end of last summer, but called the validity of the order into question – and described the move as 'grossly unfair'.

"Why should families lose out on these chalets? Beach chalets are part of the fabric of the beach, along with the donkeys, the ice-cream and the Punch & Judy show," Mr Jones said. "They've been on Weymouth beach for decades and decades."

He added that the huts were not the cause of the town's problems with anti-social behaviour, which he said would continue even if the huts were removed.

"There has been an absolute burgeoning of anti-social behaviour all over town, especially at the train station," he said, pointing to the Echo's frequent coverage of the issue. "There is open drug-dealing under the Pier Bandstand and in the public toilets. So it's a bit rich to blame it all on beach huts."

Mr Jones has asked the judicial system for clarification of details of the council's order, with the case to be heard at the county court in June.

"There is almost a war against us," Mr Jones went on, adding that if the 25 chalets were removed, that part of his family's business would no longer be viable.

"I am not doubting that we [in Weymouth] have a big anti-social behaviour issue," he said. "But this is not the way to fix it. If we take this to the nth level then the council would have to get rid of its shelters, we'd have to lose the bandstand and the station – trains would have to stop at Dorchester."

Borough council leader Jeff Cant said the council was 'disappointed' the huts had been placed on the beach adjacent to Brunswick Terrace.

"We have told the beach hut operators that they are not permitted to do so," Cllr Cant said.

“There is an ongoing dispute with the operators, who have applied to the court to establish their right to occupy the beach. We are defending the proceedings vigorously. We appreciate the frustrations felt and we are taking legal advice on the matter, which we hope to resolve as soon as possible."