Caravanners in Ingoldmells take council to court over policy to remove vans over 15 years old

Caravanners at a council-owned park in Ingoldmells have stepped up their campaign against a policy that puts vans over 15 years old on the scrap heap. .

Caravanners at the Kingfisher Caravan Park in Ingoldmells have been fighting to stay on site for two years and are now taking ELDC to court.

Kingfisher Caravan Park has been owned by East Lindsey District Council since 1974 and initially caravanners were happy with the authority's "excellent, friendly and efficient service" having been told there was no age limit for their vans so long as they were well-maintained.

However, since 2017, due to a policy change, caravanners with vans over 15 years have been fighting to keep their vans on site.

There are around 34,000 caravans across the East Lindsey Coast with an economic value at just under £543,000,000 in 2019, according to ELDC.

The Skegness Standard last spoke to caravaners on the authority's Kingfisher park in 2019 when it was believed there were more than 680 vans on site and 230 faced being removed unless owners were granted a year's grace if they pass an inspection.

However, last year's deadline was extended, primarily due to the coronavirus pandemic, until the end of this year.

Already an estimated 300 caravans have moved off site leaving empty spaces and, according to campaigners, losing the authority more than "£1million a year" in ground rents.

Stuart Allen owns six caravans on Kingfisher which he says are booked out for the summer. He said:

"Since taking over the site East Lindsey District Council's policy has always been that there was no age limit and you could stop on the site as long as you kept your caravan in good condition.

"I have caravans on here aged between 10 and 20 years which are immaculate and people come back year after year to stay in them.

"We believe ELDC wants to make this a premium site attracting people from London, but what about the working families who have been coming to the coast for years.

"Many of the caravan owners bought them for somewhere to stay when they retired - they are in their 60s now and don't have £30,000 to upgrade them.

"And why should they when other sites are still selling 15 year old vans for £25,000.

"It makes no sense. More and more people are taking staycations but the site is full of empty pitches - this couldn't have come at a worse time."

The legal action could take two years to resolve. In the meantime, caravanners claim they have signed the new agreements 'under duress' informing the council this was the case and then proceeded to challenge what they were doing.

Ingoldmells councillor on Lincolnshire County Council Colin Davie, who is on the audit and governance committee, commented: "The aerial pictures of the site are very depressing, it looks terrible.

"People that have caravans spend money in the local area but that’s not going through the local economy either.”

He said the loss of income was “substantial”, and queried why it had not been phased in rather than all at once and called for the decision to go through further scrutiny.

“The audit and governance committee, of which I am a member, is a critical part of ensuring that the council performs to the very best of its abilities for its residents," he said.

“Members of that committee have an absolute responsibility to ask questions and demand answers so the performance of the council, is constantly improving.”

The Skegness Standard approached East Lindsey District Council for a comment and received this response: "As a council we have made a commitment to investing in and improving Kingfisher Caravan Park, to the benefit of the licensees and visitors who we know value and cherish the site.

"In order for us to do this, and to ensure the sustainability of the site, in 2019 we introduced a 20-year age limit – not 15 years as purported by Mr Allen.

"Recognising the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and taking on board feedback we received, in 2020 we offered all licensees whose caravan would contravene the 20-year age limit at the end of the year a further annual licence. Thereby ensuring that no caravan would need to be upgraded or relocated until 31 December 2021 and hopefully providing some peace of mind during what was a tumultuous time.

"The changes to the terms and conditions for our licensees are just one part of a wider programme of work that we have undertaken at Kingfisher, which has included significant investment, which again, will help us to ensure that the park remains as sustainable operation and that can be enjoyed for years to come."

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