May 19, 2023 4.00 pm This story is over 10 months old

Call for caravan crackdown as thousands “live unlawfully” on East Lindsey sites

‘Health and safety risks to these ‘residents’ are unacceptable’

There are calls for East Lindsey District Council to crackdown on caravan licensing after a recent scrutiny review revealed alarming statistics.

Approximately 6,600 individuals are believed to have been residing unlawfully on caravan sites in East Lindsey during the pandemic.

This revelation has raised significant concerns regarding safety and adherence to regulations.

The review, due before a meeting of the Full Council next Wednesday, emphasised the importance of protecting the community and enhancing compliance through more robust regulations.

The review also uncovered a backlog of 114 caravan sites awaiting proper licensing procedures, with additional sites requiring planning permission.

The licensing and enforcement department was described as “understaffed” by witnesses.

East Lindsey currently hosts 262 caravan sites, including 22 residential sites, housing a total of 36,800 caravans. This is the largest concentration of caravans in Western Europe.

Licensing officers said people living unlawfully on caravan sites posed challenges to housing, wellbeing services, and emergency services.

The report accused some unscrupulous site owners who accept money in exchange for allowing people to reside on-site illegally. These sites often employ tactics such as blacking out windows at night and locking gates to create an impression of vacancy.

“The health and safety risks to these ‘residents’ are unacceptable, and it was agreed that everything must be done to safeguard people at risk,” said the report.

“The council cannot be seen to be allowing people’s lives to be put in danger.”

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The report emphasised the urgent need for stronger regulations and enforcement to prevent unauthorized occupancy and ensure compliance with licensing conditions.

Prominent figures also expressed concerns regarding the situation.

Professor Mark Gussy, a rural healthcare specialist from Lincoln University, estimated that around 6,600 people may have been living unlawfully on caravan sites throughout the district during the pandemic.

He emphasized the urgency of addressing the unmet health needs of caravan dwellers to mitigate escalating healthcare costs and improve access to care.

Fire chiefs at the county council also warned about the potential devastation of a fire in these sites.

Jonathan Moses, Director of Blue Anchor Leisure, highlighted the need for improved licensing conditions and enforcement, stressing that smaller sites should not be overlooked.

Councillor Colin Davie, the portfolio holder for environment and economy at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “We have long been aware of licensing breaches, and the pandemic has highlighted the scale of the problem.”

He added that Fire and Rescue chiefs believed that a coastal flooding was not a matter of “when, not if”.

Implementing the recommendations outlined in the report will require a proper budget and the recruitment of new officers, according to Davie.

Councillor Tom Ashton, the Portfolio Holder for Planning at East Lindsey District Council, said tourism benefits needed to be balanced with residents’ safety.

“I would like us to be in a position where we’re able to give full confidence to our local residents that everyone who is making use of their caravans are doing so in a way which accord with licensing conditions that everyone paying their dues demands,” he said.

Ashton also acknowledged the challenges arising from differing policies and standards over time, with some sites featuring older caravans governed by different rules.

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