May 25, 2023 12.00 pm This story is over 10 months old

Stark warning of Grenfell-scale tragedy over illegal Lincolnshire caravans

Thousands are residing in sites which don’t meet safety standards

There have been warnings of a Grenfell-type tragedy if caravan licensing and planning issues are not tackled in East Lindsey District Council.

Members of the full council on Wednesday night heard how a scrutiny review of the district’s caravan sites had raised significant concerns regarding safety and adherence to regulations.

Statistics in the report found that approximately 6,600 individuals were believed to have been residing unlawfully on caravan sites in East Lindsey during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, it is understood a backlog of 114 caravan sites waiting for proper licensing procedures could take up to two years to clear.

Independent Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders, who authored the report along with a scrutiny panel, told councillors that fire chiefs had warned: “It’s not a matter of if, but when, and if the sea ever did come over again we would be making Grenfell pale into insignificance – thousands of people would perish.”

“It has been kicked into the long grass so many times that we must look after enforcement. It is a danger to our reputation if we don’t do something about it,” she said.

The full report has already been passed to the county council, MP Victoria Atkins and the government.

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.

The Grenfell incident was a major tragedy.

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

The report accused some unscrupulous site owners of accepting 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 report emphasised the urgent need for stronger regulations and enforcement to prevent unauthorised occupancy and ensure compliance with licensing conditions.

Conservative Portfolio holder Councillor Tom Ashton said there was not one recommendation he did not agree with.

He noted caravans made a massive contribution to the economy and considered it a vote of confidence in the district that people holiday here.

However, he added: “It’s absolutely right they pay their fair share of council tax and we know what planning conditions are in place across our sites.”

Other councillors said the “far reaching” review had been needed for nearly 40 years .

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Councillor Danny Brookes, from Skegness Urban District Society, said it had “opened a massive can of worms”.

“It highlights how many homeless people we have in East Lindsey,” he said.

“It is a major piece of work that will take a very long time to get to the bottom of.”

Councillor Craig Leyland said it was timely with work the council is doing with partners on flood defences which had been accelerated recently.

“The report gives us a good steering point to tackle that,” he said, but added: “It’s not going to be a five minute job”.

“There’s going to be a required commitment over a long period of time to be persistent to deal with the issues.”

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