Impact of 12 month holiday Parks: An Open Letter to Darren Millar

Paul Craven, director

Responsible behaviour from caravan owners and park operators is something that we take very seriously at My Holiday Caravan, and so the news that broke last month regarding Welsh Assembly member Darren Millar’s Holiday Caravan Park Bill for Wales was of great interest to us.

Mr Millar’s proposed bill will introduce tougher controls on caravan parks in Wales, prohibiting unscrupulous owners from moving into their caravan on a permanent basis, and thus avoiding paying their share of council tax.

Local councils such as Gynedd and Porthmadog have raised concerns about this practice, warning that it is strangling the economies of tourist hotspots throughout the country.

Rules and regulations are currently in place to prevent this. As it stands, owners of holiday caravan parks with 12 month licenses must ask buyers for proof of a permanent address in the UK, for which they pay council tax. Most park owners and operators are stringent in enforcing these checks.

However, I am sympathetic to Mr Millar’s point. These checks can be circumvented by using false declarations on contracts, or by using the addresses of accomplices. Sometimes the situation of a buyer may change, post-sale, leading them to move into their caravan on a more permanent basis.

There is currently no obligation for a park owner to carry out successive checks on the validity of permanent addresses, leaving the system open to abuse.

It is also correct to say that – in some cases – the financial incentives offered to a park operators’ sales team may compromise their interests, leading to initial checks not being made. This is especially true if the park has a glut of available pitches.

However, reputable 12-month holiday park operators will adopt a zero-tolerance attitude to residential ownership in accordance with the HMRC’s regulations. Other parks – most in fact – will operate a 'close season', making residential use impossible, although caravan owners may still live in their unit for 10 or 11 months, vacating the park for a short time during close season.

We support Mr Millar’s bill and agree that further governmental controls may be required if the current protocol of park enforcement is failing. However we would urge caution: such controls must be administered carefully and effectively, and should not penalise people who use 12-month caravan parks in a legal and socially responsible manner.