Caravan owners fear site sell-off

By David LennardCARAVAN owners have reacted with fury after being told to vacate a popular council-owned site and fear it could be sold to a private firm.

By David Lennard

CARAVAN owners have reacted with fury after being told to vacate a popular council-owned site and fear it could be sold to a private firm.

They have received letters from Waveney District Council asking them to remove their caravans from the Southwold Harbour site.

Members of the Southwold Caravan Owners' Association now fear a sale of the site is close to being agreed and its whole future is in jeopardy.

Some caravan owners claimed the district council has accepted an offer of £2million, which would see the new owners taking over a 99-year lease - but the council could not comment on this.

The caravan site at Southwold Harbour is owned by Waveney District Council, but it needs updating to bring it up to modern-day standards.

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The cash-strapped district council does not have sufficient funds to carry out the necessary improvements and is currently investigating the possible sale of the site to a private buyer.

Helen and Chris Bashford have had a caravan on the site for the past four years after being on a waiting list for several years.

“We are relative newcomers to the site, but there are many caravan owners who have been on the site for years and years and they are also extremely upset at what is happening,” said Mrs Bashford.

“We have now received letters telling us that our caravans have to be removed from the site in October after originally being told they could stay there this winter.”

The caravan owners fear the site could change character if it is sold to the private sector with bingo halls, bars and other similar facilities that are seen at sites in other parts of the country.

“It is not just the caravan owners who should be worried. The prospective sale of this land must cause alarm bells to ring for all Southwold residents, most of whom believe the area comprises common land owned by them since being gifted to the people,” said Mrs Bashford.

Peter Austin, Conservative leader of Waveney District Council, said it was difficult to go into details of what was being proposed for the caravan site because of commercial confidentiality.

“What I can say is that the caravan sites at Southwold Harbour and at North Denes in Lowestoft owned by the district council do not meet the high standards required today,” he added.

“The district council has set up a working party to look at the various alternatives open to us and we are talking to private buyers.”

Mr Austin, who is a member of Southwold Town Council, apologised to caravan owners for asking them to remove their mobile homes at the end of the summer season.

“We had originally thought the caravans could stay at the site, but if a new owner wants to improve the site in time to open for the 2004 season, it will mean them having a clear site to work in this winter,” he said.

Mr Austin admitted there might be some “pain” for caravan owners in the future as any new owner was likely to increase rental costs.

“It is only fair to assume that any new owner who spends money in upgrading the site will want to see a return on the investment,” he said.

“But the caravan owners will be getting the modern facilities that are currently lacking on the site.”

No final decision has yet been taken on the sale of the Southwold Harbour Caravan Site and it is likely the full council would need to approve any recommendations to do so.

david.lennard@eadt.co.uk

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