Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (L 37)

British Holiday & Home Parks Association

 

1. The British Holiday & Home Parks Association (BH&HPA) is the national trade body representing developers and operators of holiday, caravan and chalet parks and residential home parks in the UK.

 

Tourism 

 

2. The Association represents an industry which accounts for a tourist spend of some £3 billion each year, accommodating some 22% of all holiday bed nights in the U.K [1] . The industry comprises holiday chalets, caravan holiday homes, lodges, touring caravans, tenting and all types of self-catering accommodation.

3. The BH&HPA membership owns and manages an estimated 80% of the total licensed caravan and self-catering ‘on-site’ pitches in the UK. The Association estimates there to be some 3,500 holiday parks geographically dispersed to the coastal and rural areas that are attractive to holiday makers. The industry includes well known brands such as Haven, Parkdean, Park Holidays UK and Park Resorts but the majority of the 3,500 businesses in the sector are SMEs or micro-enterprises, usually independently owned and managed as a family concern.

Low cost market housing

4. The residential park homes sector accounts for around 85,000 units of residential accommodation in England on 2,000 residential home parks [2] , often known as ‘Park Home Estates’ or ‘Mobile Home Parks’. The Association’s membership owns or manages residential parks accounting for 60% of residential park home pitches in the UK. Many parks are located in rural areas, where they play an important role in supporting local village businesses, such as pubs and shops, and services.

Localism Bill and holiday parks

5. In the words of the Prime Minister, tourism is ‘fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of our economy. It’s one of the best and fastest ways of generating the jobs we so badly need in this country.’ However, tourism’s place within the Localism agenda is not clear. Tourists do not have representation at local level, despite their contribution to the local economy. The colloquialism which describes tourists as ‘grockles’ with all the negative connections of the word is at the heart of the Association’s concerns.

6. Holiday park business is often viewed as a Cinderella sector, poorly understood and with an economic, social and environmental contribution which is unrecognised by many. Those with a home and a job will not recognise the many advantages that the development of tourism in their local area will bring.

7. Park businesses need the flexibility to respond to changing market conditions and where this is sustainable, to develop and grow. This can only be achieved through the planning system where local opposition to any change already places enormous barriers to the industry’s flexibility. Put simply, each new caravan holiday home pitch generates between £11,007 and £25,708 spend in the local economy, each year; this includes direct and indirect spend. Each new touring caravan/tent pitch generates between £10,104 and £15,156. Every two pitches on the park support one job (directly or indirectly). We fear local opposition to park development will deny the local economy of this opportunity, unless there are appropriate checks and controls.

8. Government planning guidance, and the present planning framework, currently offer an appropriate level of direction to local authorities. However, the promised, simplified system cannot do justice to the diverse needs of different business interests. The concept of ‘guided localism’ has already been mooted in the media, and planning guidance must be sufficient to inform local authority officers of the benefits and varying requirements of different businesses. It is impractical for this knowledge to be collated at the local level; it would be neither affordable nor an efficient use of resources for each local authority to set about acquiring such expertise.

9. Further, even the most ‘engaged’ park owner will struggle to get their voice heard in Local Enterprise Partnerships and at community level the park owner will almost certainly be a lone voice. Sufficient thought must be given to the position of the smallest business owners who comprise the majority of the sector. Already burdened with regulatory red-tape, keeping the books and daily duties from grass cutting to welcoming guests, it is hard to see how the majority of park owners will be able to engage in the local lobby. By their very nature, entrepreneurs do not engage in politics.

Localism Bill and park homes

10. Park homes provide low cost market housing, with many benefits for individual park home owners as well as their host communities. In a Written Ministerial Statement, 14 July 2010, the Minister for Housing and Local Government (The Rt Hon Grant Shapps) stated: "The Government values the role the park home sector plays in the housing market offering an affordable alternative to mainstream housing for many people, often over the age of fifty, in mainly rural, semi-rural and seaside locations."

11. Demand for this popular form of housing outstrips supply in typical market conditions and local authorities tend to overlook the importance of this sector as a provider of low cost, high quality accommodation. Park homes are built to a British Standard with good insulation and low maintenance requirements; they look like many conventional detached bungalows. Park homes are especially popular with older people looking to move to more suitable accommodation and release equity and they offer not only affordability but also compactness, security and a sense of community. Those seeking to live in a park home may not be current residents in a local area, and so will have no voice in the local and neighbourhood agenda.

12. Often the subject of ill-informed prejudice, proposals for park home development s are rarely successful; we urged that government specifically referred to park homes in the eligibility criteria for the proposed New Homes Bonus scheme so that local authorities might take a second, more reasoned look at the benefits of this particular form of housing .

13. The Bill addresses local authority housing finances; park homes offer an alternative form of housing that, in effect, offers private sector subsidy to create much needed low-cost market housing. However, as with holiday parks, we fear for the future of park home development with power vested almost exclusively in the hands of local authorities whose misguided prejudices may prevail.

In summary

14. We fear for the unintended consequences of some aspects of the Localism Bill. It could, in practice, place a stranglehold on park development whilst requiring the duplication of public sector resources as each local authority duplicates the activity of its neighbours, where this would more efficiently be achieved at national level. The Committee is urged to consider safeguards that may, as Localism evolves, ensure communities are encouraged to take a rounded view encompassing the needs of non-residents (tourists, home seekers) as well as those who live in the neighbourhood, to provide balance to the voice of any articulate minority.

January 2011


[1] United Kingdom Tourism Survey 2009

[2] Park Home Site Licensing – Improving the Management of Park Home Sites. Communities and Local Government May 2009