Residents of Leisure Park Homes

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:21 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:21 pm, 27th February 2019

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Towards the end of my brief speech, I will answer her as best I can.

Another measure that I know is of interest to hon. Members is the fit and proper person test. We have also heard of cases of harassment and intimidation of holiday caravan owners; harassment is a criminal and civil offence, so I advise anyone being harassed to immediately contact the police.

Let me expand on the caravan site licensing requirements that I mentioned earlier in relation to the fit and proper person test. Under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, all caravan sites in England, except those exempted, are required to have a site licence in addition to planning permission. The purpose of licensing is to ensure that sites are safe for residents and other users.

The Mobile Homes Act 2013 amended the 1960 Act to introduce a new local authority site licensing regime, which applies to all “relevant protected sites”, including sites with planning permission for residential use only, as well as mixed-use sites with planning permission for both holiday and residential use. Local authorities’ powers include the ability to issue compliance notices if a site owner breaches their site licence conditions. If an owner fails to comply with a notice, the local authority can prosecute them; if convicted, they face an unlimited fine. The 2013 Act also made provision to introduce a fit and proper person test for site owners and managers of all relevant protected sites, including mixed sites. I know that Members will be pleased to learn that we will publish a technical consultation in the summer and legislate to introduce the scheme when parliamentary time allows.

The issues that we have discussed today are very complex, but I reassure hon. Members that the Government are committed to improving the sector. We have already introduced important legislation to strengthen the rights of consumers, but we know that there is more work to be done. I will continue to work with the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood, to consider what other measures can be taken on consumer protection, to raise consumers’ awareness of their rights when purchasing holiday caravans and traders’ awareness of their legal obligations.

I will arrange a further meeting with my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent to update her on the actions that I have set out to undertake. Once again, I congratulate her on securing this debate on such a hugely important matter. It is a pleasure to be in Westminster Hall again.