Dodgy caravan site owners hitting taxpayers in the pocket

Published on Thursday, 14 June 2012 12:12
Posted by Scott Buckler

Local taxpayers are having to pick up the tab for rogue fixed caravan site owners who overcrowd areas, ignore licensing rules and dump rubbish illegally, leaving vulnerable residents at risk

To tackle these issues, the Local Government Association (LGA) has written in response to a Government consultation to the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP, urging him to toughen up licensing rules and force these park home owners to pay the costs that come with meeting legal requirements.

Currently the local taxpayer has to pick up the tab for dodgy caravan site owners flouting the law, and instead, town hall leaders want "a revised licensing system backed up with fines to reflect the true value of park homes and the cost of maintaining them". Currently, the maximum is just £2,500 for breaching a licence, which is likely to be cheaper than complying with the conditions.

Council leaders are also pressing for locally-set fees to license park homes sites to ensure that maintenance local taxpayers no longer "subsidise site owners to meet basic safety standards".

Cllr David Parsons, Chairman of the LGA's Environment and Housing Board, said:

"Those caravan site owners that flout licensing rules are exposing residents to unnecessary risk and harm as well as leaving local taxpayers out of pocket.

"We now urgently need a system in which site owners pay the upfront costs of abiding by licensing rules and ensuring that sewerage, water and other facilities meet the expectations of residents. Councils want the flexibility to be able to take this forward based on the risk to residents and to cover their costs.

"Town hall leaders are supporting plans to allow them to charge site owners appropriate licensing fees and are urging the Government to give the courts real teeth to hit dubious site owners hard in the pocket for breaking the law."

Examples include:

  •     Scatterdells Park, Chipperfield, Hertfordshire (2011) – As the owner applied to increase the number of pitches, it was found that emergency services and utility companies generally struggled to access the site. Further concerns were also raised about the ability of the sewerage system to cope with demand and the lack of a fire risk assessment.

  •     Woodlands Park, Biddenden, Kent (2011) – Despite planning permission for 125 homes, 138 existed on the site, while a further seven part-time caravans were lived in all year round. This overcrowding resulted in serious flooding of the resident's gardens, after a drainage ditch was filled in to cater for more homes. The site owner was later ordered to pay a small fine of £2,500 for breaking licensing rules.

  •     Teignbridge, Devon (2010) – A survey found that over 96 per cent of homes had trip hazards, while nearly one in three said that they didn't have a handrail on their stairs. Some residents didn't have any heating at all. Teignbridge District Council received 55 complaints about disrepair and maintenance issues on the sites. More than 25 per cent of residents were aged over 75, while more than a quarter were disabled, heightening concerns.

  •     Unnamed local authority – Site owners' dumped rubbish on empty and unoccupied pitches to push adjacent homes owners off the site. Site owners also have been known to make illegal changes to pitch fees, site rules, electricity fees and water rates.

The letter was sent as part of the LGA's response to the Government's consultation on protecting park home residents and local taxpayers from the actions of unscrupulous site owners.

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