Park Home Holidays, owners of the Pevensey Bay site, that local people still know as Martello Beach, is under investigation over the mis-selling of caravans at one of their other holiday home sites.
An undercover BBC reporter recorded a potential “buyer” being told that that caravans could be permanent homes.
The promotion of caravan purchases on this basis is in clear breach of a licence for holiday homes.
In response Park Home Holidays said that customers contracts “unambiguously state” they could not be used for residential purposes.
Buyers, they said, were told they must have a permanent address elsewhere.
Finance and Consumer rights lawyer, Jane Sanders said “I have 50 confirmed cases of people living on site in their caravans as their main residence, and I believe this is a huge problem – hundreds if not thousands of people living on these sites as their main residence.”
She said many people were “terrified” to speak out about it, in case they were evicted.
Park Holidays has 29 parks across the country, and Ms Sanders is representing people living at sites in Kent and Sussex – including Marlie Holiday Park in New Romney, Kent, where the BBC undercover footage was gathered.
A BBC undercover researcher, posing as a potential buyer without a permanent home, was told by staff at Park Holidays that “it’s almost like a residential park, although we’ve not got full residential status”, and caravan owners can stay for eleven and half months with “no restrictions on usage”.
The Park Home holiday staff member is recorded as giving advice about setting up a PO Box for his post, and providing the company with a family member’s address “for when my head office sends out rubbish about changing your caravan”.
The staff member said there were only two weeks a year when caravan owners could not spend the night, adding in those weeks that they could “see family, or go on holiday”, as about 90% of owners “spend the full season here”.
The footage was filmed at Marlie holiday park in Kent.
In a detailed response to the allegations about the mis-selling of caravans, Park Home Holidays told the BBC “it does not restrict the length of people’s stays on site”, but “if we suspect that the permitted use of the holiday home is being abused, we will investigate thoroughly… If misuse is found to be taking place we will, as a last resort, terminate the pitch licence agreement”.
Their spokesman added: “Staff receive comprehensive training which covers the requirement for them to explain to customers that holiday homes must not be used as permanent residences.
“Staff are also instructed not to sell to anyone if there is a concern that the would-be purchaser intends to define their holiday home as their primary residence, and failure to comply with this policy would be treated as gross misconduct.”
In the story broadcast this evening on BBC1 South East, a spokesman for the National Caravan Owners Association said “what people need to know is that caravan owners have the same rights as someone who buys a jumper or a TV”.
Simon Montgomery, editor of The Pevensey Bay Journal, said, ‘we all love the Park Home Holidays site here, and many of us started our love affair with Pevensey Bay on the site, but there are some critical questions about the difference between a holiday home and a residence..
“There is no surprise to see that a Finance and Consumer rights lawyer is now involved in defending the case of the caravan owners, my view is that the some of the people buying caravans on the site here in Pevensey Bay have not been fully appraised of the circumstances in which they have made a purchase.
“We have an example here in Pevensey Bay, for instance, of a caravan owner being told by the company that a residential address could even be abroad”.
“In some ways what is happening is reaching a tipping point, not just at Marlie holiday park in Kent and here in Sussex at Martello Beach, but across the country
“Park Holiday Homes has recently applied to Wealden Council to see their licence extended to be 50 weeks of the year on the basis that this happening elsewhere on other sites in the country.
“This blurs the boundaries between holiday homes and residential homes one step further”.
We wait to see if Park Holiday Homes is prosecuted for mis-selling caravans on their site at Marlie holiday park in Kent.
Objections to the variance of the condition of the leases on the site, here in Pevensey Bay, has seen a number of local residents expressing their concerns about the application and extension of arrangements.
One resident in their letter of objection said, “If the extension is granted to increase the occupational time limits of the Caravan Park from the existing 48 weeks per year to 50 weeks per year, the nature of the Caravan Park will be changed from a holiday homes site, to a site where residents will be living permanently apart from 2 weeks per year.
The objector adds “on 12/7/18, the park owners applied again to the Council to amend their planning permission. The following highlighted points from the planning application should be noted: The site shall solely be used as a holiday caravan site with caravans occupied for camping/holiday purposes during the period commencing 1 March in any year until 14th February of the following year only, and no caravan shall be occupied as a person’s sole or main place of residence at any time.”
The letter of objection ends by suggesting. “With 50 weeks’ residency allowed each year, it is very difficult to view occupancy of the caravans as anything other than, in a significant number of cases, an assumed residency”.Linkback: https://staticforum.co.uk/index.php/topic,383.msg731.html#msg731