Northern Ireland caravan owners take protest over ‘extortionate prices’ and unfair practices by some site owners to Stormont

Thousands have backed a petition calling for justice for caravan owners as cross-party support for legal protection from unfair business practices by caravan parks grows.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 7:10 pm
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th December 2021 Caravan owners take their protest to Stormont, east Belfast, to highlight the ongoing issues they have with some site owners. . Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Yesterday, a group of caravan owners protested the steps of Stormont castle over the way caravan park tenants are being treated by owners.

TUV MLA Jim Allister presented a petition, signed by 3,768, to MLAs.

Addressing the Assembly, Mr Allister said: “This petition, signed by 3,768 people, represents families across Northern Ireland who have grave grievances over the manner of their treatment by some, but, I stress, not all caravan park owners.

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“Among the grievances is the fact that they have no security of tenure on a caravan park. They get a licence from one year to the next, and, then, at the end of that year, they are vulnerable, as has happened this year in one park, to exorbitant demands for increases in pitch fees — in one case, a 35% increase, which is unconscionable and unacceptable. The first thing that caravan owners require on their sites is security of tenure. That is absolutely vital.”

He continued: “There has also been the introduction of new rules without consultation with caravan holders, putting an arbitrary limit on the age of a caravan that can be sustained on a site, along with coercive pressure to purchase new caravans from the park owners and limitations on who else you can purchase from.

“Then, there have been attempts to monopolise the ancillary services — again, sometimes, at extortionate rates.

“For example, many people who want to place decking by their caravan have been told that they can have that done only by the staff and the contractors of the park owners, and therefore extortionate prices can be charged.”

DUP MLA Gary Middleton was one of a number of MLAs who spoke with the protesters.

Speaking to the News Letter afterwards, the Foyle MLA said: “There were a number of constituents, from Londonderry, there today who are concerned about what they see as bad practice within the caravan setting. Many of them have invested a huge amount of money into their caravans and then had conditions placed upon them in terms of having to sell their caravan back to the site or buy a new caravan. They felt, today, that it was important that they got to Stormont to put across their point and they did so very well.”

He added: “What we are doing is supporting their call for legislation to be put in place. I think that’s a fair thing to do. I know there were MLAs who sit for other committees there, and the Department for Communinties was mentioned in terms of their remit and how it could be looked at.

“It’s about creating a situation where tenants feel they have rights, that they are protected, and that they are not open to exploitation.”