Holiday homes are being occupied as permanent residences without planning permission as the result of misleading marketing by park owners
It’s been another bumper year for tourism in East Devon, but there are growing fears that tourist accommodation in the district is increasingly being sold off to those who want to live permanently in the area.
Much of the holiday accommodation in the district takes the form of static caravans and lodges within holiday parks in the countryside, which provide attractive but affordable accommodation. These sites have often been granted planning permission subject to restrictions that they can only be occupied as holiday accommodation, but East Devon District Council is extremely concerned that these units are increasingly being sold off to purchasers who believe that they can live in them all year round, which is not the case.
This means that the council has to take enforcement action against the residents to ensure that the units are retained for holiday purposes, to help support the district’s important tourist industry and to prevent new permanent residences being created in the countryside, where they are remote from the services and facilities needed for permanent occupation.
In response, many residents claim that they have been mis-sold their homes, often having spent their life savings in the belief that they have found their dream retirement home, having been told by sales people that there are no restrictions on occupation or that such restrictions will not be enforced. In reality there will be restrictions on most if not all of the holiday accommodation like this in the district and the council takes enforcing these restrictions very seriously.
The council is currently dealing with a couple of cases in the district where the residents claim that they have been mis-sold their homes and were led to believe that there was no issue with restrictions. These cases are the subject of private legal action by the residents against the site owners and investigations by trading standards and so it is not appropriate to disclose the specifics of these cases, but in one case a group of residents have recently been served enforcement notices giving them 12 months to vacate the holiday lodges, which they are permanently living in.
It is not the council’s wish to make anyone homeless and it is hoped that the residents will be able to make alternative arrangements during that time period and/or pursue any appeals against the council’s decisions that they may wish to make.
Those thinking of purchasing any kind of park home, lodge or static caravan in the district should check carefully what restrictions have been imposed within the planning consent and ensure that they can comply with them before purchasing such a property. Taking legal advice from a solicitor with experience of these issues is also advised.
Cllr Philip Skinner, East Devon District Council’s Economy Portfolio Holder, said:
The tourist industry is a vital component of the economy of East Devon and it relies heavily on us having a good supply of quality accommodation for tourists to stay. We cannot afford to lose holiday accommodation. Neither do we want to be in the position of having to rehouse people who have been mis-sold such properties. It is incumbent on all holiday park owners when selling units to be clear to purchasers about the occupation restrictions that exist and for purchasers to ensure that they are aware of them and to comply with them.