Mobile Home Parks

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:35 pm on 2nd March 2009.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) 10:35 pm, 2nd March 2009

That is not my understanding, although I can take that point away and look at it. In my constituency, there is a similar site—Elmtree Park—where there are two residents' associations that are equally recognised by the site owner. That can be provided for in the current situation, although I can certainly consider the point made by the right hon. Gentleman and write to him if need be.

The key focus of my response to the right hon. Gentleman's speech is that I am keen to go further to help people such as Mr. and Mrs. Ellis and to help people who live in park homes. I believe that we need to do more to prevent unscrupulous individuals such as Mr. and Mrs. Barney from operating in this sector. Also, where an individual has acted in a criminal manner that is relevant to his fitness to be engaged in the management of a park home site, we need to address it.

As the right hon. Gentleman said, local authorities are obliged to license park home sites in their areas, but they often have little discretion in that duty and insufficient tools to enforce compliance. If someone wants a licence to station park homes on a site, provided that he or she has planning permission to do so, the authority must issue the licence and give it free of charge, except in very limited circumstances. Once a licence has been granted, it is extremely difficult for an authority to take it away from that person, no matter how unsuitable that person may be. The local authority cannot even require minimum management standards to be applied under the licence it grants.

As we have heard tonight, that is not reasonable. Therefore, I want to consult on introducing a licensing regime that requires managers of park homes and some other caravan sites to be suitable persons and to have the relevant competences to manage that type of accommodation. I want that consultation to seek views on giving local authorities the right tools to be able to enforce their licensing requirements.

We need to ensure that any regulation is light touch, clear and easy to understand. I want to be sure at the consultation stage that it will neither drive good owners out of the market nor discourage other suitable persons from entering it. I am committed to ensuring that we have a vibrant park home sector that meets the needs of its residents, offers a safe and affordable housing option, and encourages investment and good management by decent owners.

A new licensing regime must meet the needs of all, be comprehensive and work in the 21st century housing market. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that, before we embark on any detailed proposals, we need to consult on those proposals and their impact. I especially want to hear from residents, site owners, and local authorities and their representatives on how we can take matters forward to avoid appalling cases such as that of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis.

I hope that my remarks demonstrate to the House the Government's commitment to ensuring that park homes residents have as much protection as possible. We have in recent years built upon the protections already enshrined in law through the status of mobile homes. We aim to consult on providing a suitable licensing regime that will help to eliminate poor practice and unscrupulous management. Park homes have an opportunity to play a growing role in this country's housing offer over the next few years, and we in government will continue to pledge to work with the industry, local authorities, police and right hon. and hon. Members to fulfil that potential.

House adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 9(7)).

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