We're being kicked out of our home of more than 21 years – we had no idea what we were doing was wrong | The SunOctober 30, 2022
AN elderly couple are among caravan park residents who were forced to leave their homes which they say they’d been obliviously living in illegally for two decades.
Doug Davis, 73, and partner Pam Donovan, 77, paid council tax on the standard motor home at Porthkerry leisure park near Barry for 21 years.
But during the first coronavirus lockdown in the summer of 2020, the Welsh Government asked the caravan owners to leave the site and return to their homes.
It was then realised about 40 people had been living on the site for 10 months of the year in caravans only permitted for second home use.
The site is now under the new ownership of Vale Holiday Parks who took it over this year on the provision that ex-owner Phil Edwards would end the issue of residents living there permanently.
Across the UK it is illegal to live on a holiday park in a caravan permanently without a primary residence elsewhere.
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The caravan should be for recreation and holiday use only, and does not require council tax payment Doug and Pam.
They are a part of a small group of people who lived on the park who left in June after coming to an out of court settlement with Mr Edwards costing tens of thousands of pounds.
Doug and Pam say they paid £120 a month in council tax each year to the Vale of Glamorgan Council, which showed they were living on the park permanently.
The couple say all their payments to the council showed they were living there for ten months of the year, and were never told what they were doing was wrong.
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The Vale council would not comment on the matter.
Doug said: “In 2003, Pam and I split from our partners and I moved in with Pam.
“We thought that as we were living on the site we should pay council tax, and we contacted the council to start paying. From then on we did pay annually right up until 2018 when Phil stopped the post coming to the site.
“Then we started getting our post from the post office every week, but the post office stopped doing that. Then we had to have all our post sent to Pam’s daughter in Gabalfa.”
'WE WERE OBLIVIOUS'
Doug and Pam say they now realise that they shouldn’t have paid council tax on a caravan unless it was their permanent residence, and so they say the council should have known from the documents that they were living on the site against site rules.
Pam said: “It was a shock. We couldn’t believe it. Everyone knew we were living there and nothing was said for two decades.”
Doug added: “Every year I went into the office, paid my money for the year, got my little slip and that was that. Everyone knew. And we loved it there.”
The couple, who still go to the site every Friday or Saturday to have a drink in the club, said after they finally came to a settlement they struggled to find a place in the Vale where they could live but eventually found a place to rent.
Doug said: “We don’t feel we did anything wrong. If we were told what we were doing was wrong we wouldn’t have carried on doing it.
"We were oblivious. We wanted to carry on fighting but we signed in the end because we couldn’t see a way out of it.”
Mr Edwards said he felt he had been fair in offering the couple over the odds for their caravan. He paid them £25,000 for the caravan they bought in 2018 for £21,000.
Those who refused to leave the park were all paid hefty sums, while most walked away last year with nothing.
'OWNERS HAD NOT TOLD US'
Last year, before selling the park to Vale Holiday Parks, Mr Edwards told WalesOnline: “Our rules have always been clear that we are a leisure park and owners could only stay with us on holiday. We have always asked our owners for a home address."
The Welsh Government asked the park to close in March 2020, Mr Edwards claims he discovered about 40 owners who couldn't leave because they didn't have another home or had decided to rent their other property out.
He said: "These owners had not told us about this. We agreed then with the local authority that we would put in measures to stop this happening in the future and to remedy what was happening at the moment."
Owners were informed in July and August 2020 that further information was required to prove they live at a residential address.
Mr Edwards said: “Originally we asked owners to start to comply with our rules by the end of October 2020.
"The majority did, and with this being the case, and not to cause undue stress on those who needed a little longer, the local authority granted an extension until March 1, 2021, as they were content with what we had put into place and our monitoring.
"The updated rules were sent out in October, prior to any payments being taken for the coming 2021 season. The new rules therefore applied to everyone who renewed for 2021.
“We told them that their remedy was to move to a main residence away from the park.
"We said that, because the situation had been going on for so long, it was unlikely to be enough to just tell us that they had moved and they should produce some evidence that they are now in fact living somewhere else.
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"Whilst one option for them would be to sell their caravan, they were also welcome to remain our customers as long as they were prepared to comply with the park rules by only visiting us for holidays.”
The Vale council would not comment on the matter.
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