Holiday Caravan Parks

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					                   Holiday Caravan Parks
                   Standard Note:   SN/SC/988
                   Last updated:    13 July 2012
                   Author:          Christopher Barclay
                                    Science and Environment Section

•   This note covers some frequent complaints relating to holiday caravans in caravan parks.
    Different issues relate to mobile homes covered in another note, Mobile homes
    (SN/SP/1080). The note does not cover value added tax.

•   Holiday caravan parks normally have planning consent for residents to be there for ten
    months of the year.

•   Mobile homes are covered by housing law. Holiday caravan sites do not have the same
    statutory protection.

•   The National Caravan Council has a Code of Practice for its members to protect

•   Those with pitches have to agree to the contract terms of that site. Contract terms may
    include rules about acceptable age of caravan and may require the caravan to be sold
    back to the site owner.

•   The Office of Fair Trading has published guidance on unfair contract terms in 2005.

•   The Government does not plan to introduce more statutory rules governing holiday
    caravan sites.

•   It is a continuing problem that residents on holiday caravan sites do in fact stay for the
    whole year. The local planning authority could extend the planning consent to permanent
    if they wished.

•   The Government does not see redevelopment of holiday homes as a suitable way to
    provide low cost housing in the countryside.

This information is provided to Members of Parliament in support of their parliamentary duties
and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. It
should not be relied upon as being up to date; the law or policies may have changed since it
was last updated; and it should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice or as a
substitute for it. A suitably qualified professional should be consulted if specific advice or
information is required.

This information is provided subject to our general terms and conditions which are available
online or may be provided on request in hard copy. Authors are available to discuss the
content of this briefing with Members and their staff, but not with the general public.

1       Problems on caravan parks                                                                             2 

2       Local authority licences                                                                              2 

3       National Caravan Council membership                                                                   2 

4       The Government’s position                                                                             3 

5       The Office of Fair Trading intervention, June 2003                                                    4 

6       OFT guidance on contracts                                                                             5 

7       People living on holiday caravan sites                                                                7 

1        Problems on caravan parks
Owners of mobile homes have rights under the Mobile Homes Act 1983. However, that
legislation does not cover owners of holiday caravans. Many sites are run by owners who
prefer to operate sites aimed at holiday caravans. These sites are not open for the whole
year, and the Mobile Homes Act does not apply to them. Although the Housing Act 2004
improved security for mobile homes, it did not change the qualifying definition and extend it
to holiday caravans.

For most issues, there is no special law relating to holiday caravans. The British Holiday and
Home Parks Association has a code of practice for its members, but park owners outside the
association would not be bound by it. There will be a contract between the site owner and
the owners of the holiday caravans.

2        Local authority licences
A caravan site requires a licence. Local authorities have considerable discretion as to the
conditions that they attach to a licence under s.5 of the Caravan Sites and Control of
Development Act 1960. Conditions can include controlling the types of caravan on the site
(including size and state of repair, but not including conditions based on the materials used in
their construction); regulating the positions on which caravans are stationed; securing proper
fire precautions; securing adequate sanitary facilities. The latest Model Conditions under s 5
were issued by DCLG in 2008. 1

3        National Caravan Council membership
The National Caravan Council has a holiday home ownership code of practice, May 2012, for
the purchase and sale of new and pre-owned holiday homes, the agreement to occupy a
pitch on a holiday park and the provision of warranty and maintenance services. The NCC
Director General explains its purpose:

     Model Standards 2008 for Caravan Sites in England: Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 -
     Section 5

      The NCC is the UK trade body for the tourer, motorhome, holiday home and park
      home industries. Founded in 1939 our membership encompasses all sectors of the
      industry: park owners, manufacturers, dealerships and distributors and specialist
      suppliers of products and services. We also founded, and are a key member of, the
      European Caravan Federation, which promotes and strengthens the industry within the
      European Community.

      Our vision is for a self-regulated, efficient and competitive UK market and industry that
      treats consumers fairly, delivers high levels of customer satisfaction and provides full
      protection and access to redress should this be needed.

      To help us achieve this, the NCC has developed this Code of Practice as the basis of
      the NCC Approved Holiday Park - Holiday Home Ownership scheme. It is primarily for
      the benefit and protection of Holiday Home Owners setting out the principles of good
      practice and minimum standards that must be followed by scheme members when
      selling new and pre-owned Holiday Homes, when issuing a ‘Licence Agreement’ to
      occupy a Holiday Home pitch and when providing warranty and maintenance services.
      In addition, it acts as a benchmark of best practice against which scheme members’
      performance towards meeting the Code can be assessed. Please remember that the
      Code should be read in conjunction with the Purchase and Licence Agreements that
      you will sign when making your purchase.

The following passage covers an area that often results in problems:

      Our Member’s Commitment to you

      7. Resale of the Holiday Home

      1. You will have the right to sell your Holiday Home in three ways, as long as you have
      settled all outstanding accounts due to us in excess of £200 and advised us in writing
      of your intention to sell the Holiday Home in line with the terms in the Licence
      Agreement, as follows:

      a. You may sell the Holiday Home to us if we agree

      b. You may sell the Holiday Home and the rights of any unexpired Agreement Period to
      keep it on the pitch (after offering us first refusal), to a buyer (subject to our prospective
      new owner procedures and payment of any agreed commission by you as the seller, to

      c. You may sell the Holiday Home off the park (reasonable removal charges apply)

      2. We will ensure that the procedure for the sale of the Holiday Home by you is clearly
      stated within the Licence Agreement.

      3. We will ensure we do not charge more than the industry maximum rate of
      commission of 15% + VAT for resale of the Holiday Home on the pitch.

The Code covers many other areas of importance to the buyer of a holiday home.

4     The Government’s position
Some PQs in November 2010 showed that the Government is not planning to introduce
further controls over holiday caravans:

      Guto Bebb: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
      whether he plans to consult on whether local authorities should be able to levy fees in

        respect of their licensing functions relating to the Caravan Sites and Control of
        Development Act 1960.

        Grant Shapps: The Department has no plans at present to consult on this.

        Guto Bebb: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
        whether he plans to consult on proposals to reform the Caravan Sites and Control of
        Development Act 1960 in respect of the management through licensing of standards in
        residential mobile home and caravan sites.

        Grant Shapps: The Department is looking at a range of measures to help improve the
        operation and management of those mobile home sites that are poorly managed so as
        to afford better protection to the residents and the properties they own. 2

A reply in November 2011 again suggested no forthcoming change for holiday caravans:

        David Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
        what his policy is on surcharges levied by park sites owners on caravan or static
        homes owners who sell their property.

        Grant Shapps: As a matter of law the maximum rate of commission a site owner can
        obtain on the sale of a residential mobile home is 10% of the agreed price. The
        position is different on the sale of holiday caravans. The amount of commission
        payable will be a contractual term of the pitch agreement although industry guidance is
        that the amount payable should not exceed 15% of the agreed sale price. An
        unreasonable term relating to commission may not be enforceable under the
        provisions of The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. 3

5       The Office of Fair Trading intervention, June 2003
In June 2003, the Office of Fair Trading required caravan park owners to remove unfair
contract terms from their agreements:

        The OFT has taken action against unfair terms in holiday caravan contracts, and urges
        buyers to check the details of their pitch licence agreements before signing a
        contract... The site licence agreement, park rules, and conditions of sale contained a
        number of unfair terms. These included terms that:

        - allowed the withholding of the licence fees paid in advance, if the application did not
        proceed. Term changed to oblige the company to provide a full or partial refund when
        either the company or the owner terminates the agreement
        - appeared to impose penalty charges for storage of caravans. Undertakings given to
        not use, or recommend for use, terms and conditions highlighted by the OFT as unfair
        or similar terms, and to not enforce such terms in existing contracts
        - allowed the relocation of a caravan to another site without any liability to the owner.
        Term changed to limit the circumstances in which the company can move the caravan,
        provide a right to terminate if the consumer is unhappy with the relocation and oblige
        the trader to pay a proportion of the site licence fee paid if the owner cancels the
        agreement as a result [of] the change
        - allowed termination of the contract for a minor breach or non- observance of site
        licence conditions. Term changed to allow company to only terminate contract for
        serious breaches or non-observance of conditions

    HC Deb 8 November 2010 cc29-30W
    HC Deb 21 November 2011 cc56-7W

        - bound owners to hidden terms. Term changed to oblige the company to provide all
        terms at the outset
        - restricted the sale of caravans on the park by the caravan owner. Undertakings given
        as above
        - attempted to enforce a transaction linked to a credit agreement where the latter falls
        through. Undertakings given as above
        - excluded liability for the quality or condition or fitness for purpose of caravans sold.
        Term changed so that liability is no longer excluded
        - allowed the seller to impose increases in price of no more than 20% and for increases
        of more than 20% only allowed cancellation of the contract if cancellation was made
        within 10 days of notice of change being given while allowing the seller to cancel the
        contract if price decreased. Term changed to provide notice of any variation in price
        and allow consumer one month in which to cancel the contract
        - allowed the supplier to retain excessive sums by way of compensation when the
        consumer cancels the contract. Undertakings given as above.
        The OFT advises potential buyers to check the following before entering into a
        - how long a licence is for; how long the site owner has agreed they can keep their
        caravan on the site
        - what services are provided, the variation of such services and the cost of services
        such as gas or electricity
        - charges and how fees will be increased
        - insurance costs, whether insurance is required to be purchased through the park
        - restrictions on the sale or disposal of the caravan
        - termination of contract and notice periods, particularly relating to the sale or disposal
        of the caravan
        - how disputes will be handled.

        2. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 came into force on 1
        October 1999. They replaced the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations
        1994. The Regulations implement an EC Directive (EC Directive 93/13) in the UK.
        They apply to standard contract terms used with consumers in contracts made after 1
        July 1995. The Regulations say that a consumer is not bound by a standard term in a
        contract with a seller or supplier if that term is unfair. They give the Director General of
        Fair Trading and the Qualifying Bodies listed in Schedule 1 to the Regulations, the
        powers to stop the use of unfair standard terms by businesses and to prevent anyone
        recommending such terms, if necessary by obtaining a court injunction. 4

6       OFT guidance on contracts
In October 2004, the OFT followed this by publishing draft guidance on contracts. 5 In
September 2005, the OFT published its final guidance. The first part is: OFT, Guidance on
unfair terms in holiday caravan agreements. 6 It lists some main areas of concern for

        3.5 Caravan owners have complained that park owners use terms and conditions that
        allow park owners to treat them arbitrarily. Caravan owners who are in dispute with

    Office of Fair Trading Press Release 81/03, Caravan site operator gives consumer fairer deals, 19 June 2003
    OFT Press Notice 177/04, Fairer contracts for holiday caravanners, 28 October 2004
    OFT, Guidance on unfair terms in holiday caravan agreements

         park owners may be reluctant to take action on their own account in case of reprisals.
         Caravans are of little benefit to caravan owners without the right to station them on
         pitches, and they fear losing their licences and being unable to find another pitch.

         Complaints to us and other bodies indicate that the main areas of concern that
         consumers have in this sector are:

             •    lack of written agreements
             •    short duration of pitch licences
             •    potential requirement to move the caravan to a different pitch
             •    age limits on caravans
             •    restrictions on assignment and sale
             •    pitch fees
             •    restrictions on use
             •    charges
             •    tying in

The report explains the OFT view on these issues in detail. The second piece of guidance is
a leaflet explaining the position aimed at caravanners, A fair pitch for your holiday caravan. 7

In January 2008, the Home Parks Association and the National Caravan Council agreed
model contract terms with the Office for Fair Trading who announced new guidance:

         The British Holiday & Home Parks Association and the National Caravan Council have
         agreed with the OFT, to offer fairer terms and conditions to consumers buying holiday
         caravans sited on holiday parks.

         Both associations, whose membership makes up a significant proportion of the holiday
         caravan park sector, approached the OFT to discuss model terms and conditions
         contained in the Purchase Agreement and Licence Agreement for a Holiday Caravan

         The new model terms will offer clearer and fairer terms to consumers including:

         * greater clarity of the rights and obligations of both parties,
         * greater clarity of the behavioural standards expected,
         * fairer rules governing the sale of the caravan,
         * clearer and fairer termination terms and the option to cancel an agreement early and
         receive a proportional refund of prepayments,
         * a clear mechanism for pitch fee review,
         * preservation of consumer's rights when the park owner wishes to move the caravan
         for development purposes, and
         * clear dispute resolution procedures. 8

The National Caravan Council produced a guidance note in February 2008 on the new model
contract terms. 9

    OFT, A fair pitch for your holiday caravan: A guide to unfair terms in agreements for static holiday caravans,
    August 2005
    Office of Fair Trading, Fairer terms for holiday caravan owners, 15 January 2008
    National Caravan Council, Using the new industry model agreements for Caravan Holiday Homes, February

7        People living on holiday caravan sites
The ODPM put forward proposals for legislative reform relating to park homes in 2005 and
summarised the responses, including the following:

         By far the biggest area that we received suggestions on was residential use of
         holiday homes. Respondents felt that this was an excellent opportunity to deal with
         these issues.
             One solution offered by a respondent was stricter enforcement of the planning
             conditions. People should not be living on these sites all year round on holiday
             caravan licences. For residential use of land the site owner must have the
             relevant planning permission. Site licences must be issued to the site for long-
             term holiday use of land under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development
             Act 1960 by the local authority for sites with relevant planning permission. This
             will contain any conditions that the site licence holder must conform to and will
             also highlight how many months of the year the site can be occupied and any
             maximum length of occupancy during the open times. Extensive sale of goods
             legislation and the law of contract also protect holiday caravans owners. This
             should provide adequate protection for home owners, however the Mobile
             Home Act 1983 is unlikely to be applicable if someone lives on a holiday site.
             The Office of Fair Trading has recently issued guidance on unfair terms in
             holiday caravan contracts. 10

A different approach was proposed in 2011, when an MP suggested that people should be
allowed to live in holiday homes all year round so as to provide more housing in the
countryside. The low quality chalets could be redeveloped. The Government pointed out
that the planning consent could be amended by the local planning authority. It disagreed
with the idea of redevelopment:

         Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con): (...) There are more than
         7,000 holiday homes in my constituency, mainly mobile homes and chalets. Much of
         that accommodation is of a high standard, although very little of it is currently suitable
         for occupation all year round. However, some of the accommodation in my
         constituency, particularly some of the chalets, is of a very poor standard and is simply
         not fit for use in the 21st century, even for a one or two-week stay. (...)

         In addition to support, holiday park owners also want more flexibility in the length of
         time that they are allowed to stay open. I know that Swale borough council is actively
         reviewing whether the current eight-month occupancy period, which has been imposed
         on many holiday parks, can be extended to 10 months. I commend my colleagues on
         the council for undertaking that review, because the extra two months of occupation
         could make a real difference to the viability not only of the holiday parks themselves
         but of the many local businesses that rely on holidaymakers for their trade.


         That leads me back to my first issue, which is how we can provide development land
         for much-needed affordable homes, particularly in rural areas, while at the same time
         protecting what remains of our green spaces. We can go some way towards answering
         that question by bringing our holiday-home stock more in line with current needs and
         allowing some development on the land that is released.

         The vast majority of our excess capacity holiday homes are located in rural areas.
         Subject to local approval, which is vital, some of the poorest quality chalets could be

     ODPM, Park Homes Licensing Proposals for Reform – Summary of Responses,

redeveloped to provide good quality, affordable, all-year-round accommodation, such
as the bungalows found on the Parklands Village development in my own constituency.

The irony is that although the Parklands Village homes were built to full building
regulations and energy efficiency standards, the home owners can only live there for
10 months of the year and have to find temporary accommodation for the other two
months. As I have said before in the House, such a situation is both perverse and
ludicrous. Of course, any proposed development would be subject to normal planning
and building regulations, which would include consideration of the highways
implications and a requirement to provide the necessary infrastructure to support such

The problem is that some local planning authorities are loth to grant planning
permission for the development of all-year-round housing on holiday sites, insisting
that the land on which parks that close down are located must revert to rural status. A
solution would be for the Government to classify as brownfield land redundant, out-of-
use holiday home parks.

Five identifiers are used to define brownfield land: previously owned land which is now
vacant; land that has vacant buildings; land and buildings that are derelict; other
previously developed land or buildings that are currently in use but that have been
allocated for development in the adopted plan or that have planning permission for
housing; and other previously developed land or buildings, where it is known that there
is potential for development.

Holiday home parks might be included in any one of those categories. However,
explicitly including holiday park homes as a sixth identifier would leave planning
officers with absolutely no room for doubt. Such a policy would not solve the housing
problem that we inherited from the previous Government, but it might go some way to
providing more affordable homes and perhaps ensure that young people in my
constituency can afford to clamber on to the first rung of the housing ladder.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local
Government (Andrew Stunell): (...)

I want to start with the wider context. We the Government are certainly committed to a
major upswing in housing to meet Britain's housing needs. I think that it is well
understood in the Chamber that the level of household formations is approximately
twice that at which new homes are being provided, and that is clearly challenging for
us. There is an urgent need for low-cost, affordable homes for sale and for rent. The
Government's comprehensive spending review announced proposals to introduce a
social and affordable housing programme and, by tackling the overall, macro-economic
situation, the Government are strongly committed to creating an environment in which
the private sector can flourish as well. We want greater stability in the housing market
and house price rises to be more in line with earnings growth.

We have put in place a number of policies that are explicitly designed to generate that
investment. The new homes bonus scheme will be a powerful and simple incentive for
local authorities and communities to increase their aspirations for housing growth. I
was interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey had
to say about the council tax discounts that have been applied on Sheppey. That is not,
of course, a direct generator of new investment, but I want to assure him that the level
of discount is a matter for the borough council to determine, and that it is not
prescribed by this House.

My hon. Friend asked about a number of other things relating to the current
management of the holiday home stock on the island. He drew attention to the fact that

the borough council is considering whether to change the planning conditions on the
requirement of residence from eight to 10 months a year. That is a matter for the
planning authority to decide, and it has the flexibility to do that. Again, it is not subject
to national rules and restrictions in so doing.


As I was saying, the borough council has the flexibility to decide what planning
conditions it imposes on both existing and projected new developments. Such flexibility
already exists in the current planning regime. I will say in a moment how I believe the
measures that we have announced in the Localism Bill-should they find favour with the
House-will increase the flexibility of local planning authorities to deliver what my hon.
Friends, now numbering three in this debate, are really asking for.

We do not consider that holiday caravans are the right way to increase the provision of
low-cost housing, and I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne
and Sheppey was advocating that. We would certainly appreciate any planning
authority that took the view that the accommodation as it is at the moment would not
be suitable for that use. In deciding whether an area should be developed or
redeveloped for housing, any planning authority would want to take into account not
just the site itself, but, as my hon. Friend said, issues relating to infrastructure,
services, flooding and so on. All such matters should be considered by any planning
authority when looking at the suitability of a site. They would have an encouragement
via the new homes bonus to do so, which would bring them the equivalent of six times
the annual council tax for that property as an un-ring-fenced, upfront payment-as a
reward or a bonus for increasing their housing stock.

My hon. Friend said that the current planning frameworks make it difficult for
applications on surplus holiday sites to succeed. There is definitely good news
available in the planning system that we have set out in the Localism Bill. We are
taking away the top-down prescription of what can and cannot be done. It will now be
the case that if the Isle of Sheppey, or some part of the Isle of Sheppey, decided that it
was appropriate for that community to have its own neighbourhood plan, it would be
free to develop such a plan and reach such views as it saw fit about how the
development should proceed. Although that would have to be within the constraints of
the borough local plan, it would not be constrained by huge, thick volumes of national

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
made the point to the House when introducing the Localism Bill that the current
planning guidance exceeds in number of words the combined works of Shakespeare.
That is clearly a ridiculous amount for any planning authority to take account of and it
unduly and unreasonably restricts the capacity of local communities to determine their
own fate.

I commend the provision of neighbourhood plans in the Localism Bill as a way forward
for the island and for all the different communities in my hon. Friend's constituency. Of
course they cannot discount the issues of traffic, they must take account of some of the
broader strategic issues, and there will still be the national planning framework, which
will provide overall guidance in relation to the country as a whole. None the less, local
communities will have a far greater capacity to decide what factors are relevant when
considering applications and what factors should be discounted. The sixth identifier
that my hon. Friend talked about will rapidly become redundant because the
neighbourhood plan will have supremacy-if I may use that phraseology. I believe that
the changes to the planning process that we are initiating will provide him with the

         capacity to tell his constituents that the prosperous, regenerated and renewed island
         that they-and he-want to see can indeed come to pass. 11

     HC Deb 26 January 2011 cc141-6WH


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