Public Petition: Fairness for Caravan Owners

Assembly Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 6 December 2021.

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Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin 12:15, 6 December 2021

Mr Jim Allister has sought leave to present a public petition in accordance with Standing Order 22. The Member will have up to three minutes in which to speak.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

This petition, signed by 3,768 people, represents families across Northern Ireland who have grave grievances over the manner of their treatment by some, but, I stress, not all caravan park owners.

Among the grievances is the fact that they have no security of tenure on a caravan park. They get a licence from one year to the next, and, then, at the end of that year, they are vulnerable, as has happened this year in one park, to exorbitant demands for increases in pitch fees — in one case, a 35% increase, which is unconscionable and unacceptable. The first thing that caravan owners require on their sites is security of tenure. That is absolutely vital.

There has also been the introduction of new rules without consultation with caravan holders, putting an arbitrary limit on the age of a caravan that can be sustained on a site, along with coercive pressure to purchase new caravans from the park owners and limitations on who else you can purchase from. Then, there have been attempts to monopolise the ancillary services — again, sometimes, at extortionate rates. For example, many people who want to place decking by their caravan have been told that they can have that done only by the staff and the contractors of the park owners, and therefore extortionate prices can be charged.

One of the things that go to the very heart of the inequity is a refusal by some caravan park owners to recognise and coordinate with owners' associations. We are at the point where the Caravans Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 is to be reviewed. This is a timely occasion for the caravan petitioners to make the case that the 2011 Act needs to have root-and-branch change, in order to give them security of tenure and protection against extortionate treatment and to ensure that they have a situation that is tenable and fair. That is why the petition is entitled 'Fairness for Caravan Owners'.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin 12:30, 6 December 2021

I thank the Member. He knows that, normally, I would invite him to bring his petition to the Table and present it here. However, in light of social distancing, I ask him to remain in his place and to make arrangements to submit the petition to my office electronically. I thank the Member for bringing the petition to the attention of the Assembly. Once it is received, I will forward it to the Minister for Communities and send a copy to the Committee for Communities.

Could Members take their ease for a moment or two, please?

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McGlone] in the Chair)