Leaders at East Lindsey District Council voted unanimously to extend the length of time holiday home owners on Kingfisher Caravan Park in Ingoldmells can keep their property on the site - but caravanners say are days away from starting court proceedings if a meeting with the authority cannot be arranged.
The authority’s Executive was looking to claw back “greater than anticipated losses” a controversial policy change, mixed with the impact of COVID-19, had caused.
The change saw owners of caravans on Kingfisher Caravan Site told they had to pack up any holiday homes older than 20 years (15 years plus five additional one year licence extensions) in a bid to modernise the campsite.
However, the vote on Wednesday instead allowed 10 one year extensions instead – bringing the age limit to a total of 25 years.
Councillor Graham Marsh, who has run a caravan site in the past, said: “This is a sensible decision to take and it’s all about the standard of the caravans that remain on the site.
“We’ve always been more concerned not about the age but about the condition and the aesthetic view and condition of the site.”
Councillors were warned that 68 caravans were still due to leave the site by December and that the change could prevent 50 of those.
It was recently estimated the site faced a £2.5 million loss of income over the next two years after an £842,000 deficit in its 2019/20 budget. However, bosses said income levels would return to previous levels by 2022/23.
Owners of caravans on the site have previously hit back at the changes and more than 100 people plan to take East Lindsey District Council to court over the changes to contracts, announced in October 2019.
Stuart Allen, who is leading the campaigners, said the new policy would be “detrimental to individuals on site” adding that was “discriminating between the people who can afford to go on holiday in brand new caravans… and those who can only afford older caravans or invest in buying a second-hand van but will commit to spending precious money over an extended period to keep that caravan in good condition”.
He said: "Yesterday’s meeting was as we expected, the Council had already made the decision to implement the change from guaranteed 15 years plus 5 x 1 year extensions at their discretion, to guaranteed 15 years plus 10 x 1 year extensions at their discretion.
"The consultation that was carried out was never referenced, and if it had been then questions should have been raised around why 67% rejected the offer - what was the reason for the rejection? 57% pointed out that a better position had been agreed at mediation (this involved changing the minimum guaranteed position). The other aspect to consider is the circa 200 caravan owners did not respond - this makes the consultation flawed.
"In the meeting yesterday, they also stated again that the issue was related to COVID. Some may be due to COVID but the majority were due to disgruntled owners - this lead to the declared £847,000 reduction in revenue. Councillor Colin Marsh has already confirmed that the outrun for 2021 will see a further £1m in lost revenue - how can the Services for the Authority not be effected? They did highlight COVID, parking, and Kingfisher to secure Government COVID funding in 2020.
"It was also interesting that Councillor Colin Marsh, who seconded the proposal, stated that it was about the aesthetics of the caravans and the site and not the age of the caravans. As an ex-caravan site owner, he knows that guaranteed income from ground rent trumps any plans on sales and holiday rentals - if it didn’t why isn’t Coastfields, Blue Anchor, or Laver throwing off caravans over a certain age? Admittedly the Mellor Group are doing the same, but that is on the pretext of building a hotel on the land available (now rejected by the Secretary of State).
"Mathematically it is impossible to bring the Kingfisher caravan park back to the £1.4m revenue stream in a couple of years - even in the additional five years that they have now granted themselves.
"We have offered an olive branch to come back and achieve resolution that both parties would be happy with but despite multiple emails no response has been received.
"We will give the council until midnight on September 30 to request further meetings. If this is not done, then papers will be issued to the courts and we will continue to operate as per our pre 2018 terms and conditions until either the Courts decide our fate or the council agrees to work within their declared constitution."