'The problem has not gone away' - Hundreds still claimed to be living at holiday park unlawfully
PUBLISHED: 06:00 01 June 2019 | UPDATED: 08:36 01 June 2019
Hundreds of holiday park guests are still reported to be without a permanent home despite authorities' pledges to resolve the problem through legal action.
Stonham Barns faced threats of prosecution in March after it emerged many of the site's 200 guests lived there permanently, in breach of planning regulations. Alan Forward, owner of Stonham Barns holiday park and retail village, said at the time tenants had been told they could not stay all year and he was working with Mid Suffolk District Council to resolve the breaches.
But community leaders and tenants claim nothing has changed in the last two months and people are still living in caravans as their only residence.
And tenants who sold-up after learning the park could only operate 11 months of the year claim to have been told they were no longer welcome at the site.
Police confirmed they received reports of "abusive words" at the park but had too little evidence to take action.
MSDC leader Suzie Morley has also met with residents to discuss what had been happening at the park.
Stonham Aspal Parish Council has called for a meeting with MSDC to seek assurances that action would be taken before the situation got out of hand.
Parish chairman Peter Emberson said: "We're not really moving forward. I'm pushing for MSDC to enforce planning conditions but we've reached an impasse so I'm hoping they'll tell us what their next move will be,"
Mr Emberson said people on the site were concerned by the situation but "keeping their head down" to avoid further troubles.
Although guests are not allowed to use the site as their only residence, Mr Emberson claims many sold their old homes to "downsize" into caravans or lodges, which cost up to £180,000.
As many of the guests are older, some with health conditions, he fears a crisis could be looming if action is not taken soon.
Last November, authorities including Trading Standards and Citizens Advice made an emergency visit to the site, where they found scores of elderly and infirm people.
MSDC said it would prosecute the site owners for the breaching the planning conditions. But residents say they have heard nothing since.
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Charlotte Meara, who lives on the site with her two children, said: "There's been no progress at all. I just hope the council doesn't let them get away with it."
Ms Meara, 29, said she had bought her home in 2015 on the basis she could live there permanently. But after the authorities' intervention last year she and other guests received a letter from management saying they had to vacate the park during January to comply with its 11 month licence.
She claims to have spent around £1,000 on hotels that month and is now desperate to sell. "I'll be glad when it's all over," she added.
Joanne Chipperfield, who also claims to have bought her home in the belief she could live there permanently, managed to sell-up earlier this year.
But on a visit to Stonham Barns retail village, she claims to have told by park management she was not welcome.
Ms Chipperfield reported her concerns to MSDC leader Suzie Morely, whom she says visited her to find out more.
With many of her old friends still convinced they can live on the site as their main residence, Ms Chipperfiled said authorities need to act soon.
"I think people are living in limbo because they don't know what's happened and there's been no follow-up from the council since they visited last year," she said. "I'm a little disappointed that it's taken such a long time, as we're now nearly half way through the year. But I do understand that they've got a lot of red tape to get through."
Keith Raymond, 62, who recently moved out of the holiday park, said he had also been visited by Mrs Morely to discuss concerns.
"Suzie Morely said it was a priority for the council to get this sorted," he added. "I accept these things take time but it doesn't seem as though anything has changed. "More people have moved into the park since and most of those have sold their old homes to be there. People need to be aware this problem has not gone away."
Stonham Barns, which is owned by Starglade Leisure, which also runs The Grange Country Park in East Bergholt, has conditions requiring the site to be vacated in January and for caravans not to be used as sole residences.
MSDC said it was working to resolve the planning issue and would keep the public updated.
The Environment Agency also said it was working with the site owners to resolve sewage issues.
Stonham Barns was unavailable for further comment.
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