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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Jamie Mann

Scotland's static caravan and lodge owners appeal for protections

STATIC caravan and lodge owners in Scotland have called on the UK Government to give them better protections amid allegations of rent hikes, eviction threats and contract terms they deem unfair.

They include residents of a caravan park in Dumfriesshire who told The Ferret they can no longer afford to stay there, and claimed contract clauses make it infeasible to move to a new site, or sell without making a huge loss.

Elsewhere in the UK, people looking to sell their caravans allegedly face sales blocking, where park operators offer sums below the true market value, or take up to 20% commission if the owner sells privately.

While more than 600 parks are listed in Scotland, large companies – including tax-haven firms and private equity giants – have bought out smaller groups and sites in recent years, amid a rise in “staycations” fuelled by the cost of living crisis.

Such operators allegedly resell the caravans at a large profit, according to groups supporting holiday park residents, who claim holiday parks are now just “investment vehicles to be exploited”.

However, the UK Government claimed caravan owners were adequately protected, while an association for the holiday park industry said it promotes fair practices among its members.

Price hikes and evictions in Dumfriesshire

FOR nearly a decade, Malcolm Ford, 63, and his wife Hazel, 65, lived permanently in a lodge in Moffat Manor Country Park, near Beattock, which they bought after selling their former home.

But on May 29, 2023, a letter from Away Resorts, seen by The Ferret, informed the Fords that the park does not allow permanent residency, and asked them to prove they lived elsewhere by June 12. But the lodge is the Fords’ only home. Away then allegedly U-turned on its moves to evict residents.

The National: Moffat Manor Country ParkMoffat Manor Country Park (Image: The Ferret)

“Why should this rear its head now after all these years?” said Ford. He claimed he has paid council tax for the last decade – the council even collects his bins – and has been issued with everything from his driving licence to utility bills at his lodge.

Other permanent residents – many of them elderly – also faced eviction threats.

Ford is worried about losing his home, which is not mobile. “We have nowhere to go,” he said. “We haven’t got money to buy anywhere else. To be honest, we have no intention of going anywhere.”

Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said they bought a caravan from Moffat Manor in 2019 to use for holidays.

Unhappy with the service, they decided to sell up. But Away offered less than a third of the caravan’s original price, and claimed it would have cost around £10,000 in fees and transport costs to move the caravan to a different holiday park.

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell claimed residents had been “treated appallingly”.

The National: Oliver Mundell MSP warned of an ‘overreaction’ from new owners at a holiday parkOliver Mundell MSP warned of an ‘overreaction’ from new owners at a holiday park

“The whole approach strikes me as a complete overreaction from the new owners,” he said.

“Either they didn’t know the setup at the site when they bought it and have panicked, or they simply don’t care and have decided to push out vulnerable people to pursue their own commercial interests.

“Threats of eviction have come as a total shock to [residents] and many would simply have nowhere to go if they are ultimately forced to leave.”

Mundell asked Dumfries and Galloway Council to urgently clarify that the evictions would not be enforced.

The council said no complaints were raised in relation to planning or licensing matters at Moffat Manor, but urged concerned residents to contact its housing unit for help.

Away Resorts said it was “undertaking a comprehensive review of all owner pitch licence agreements”.

“Our primary focus is to ensure that all necessary paperwork is examined and duly validated,” said a spokesperson. “We want to re-emphasise that our intention is not to remove any individuals from their ownership rights, however, we have a duty to ensure we are responsible park owners.

“Our senior management team is aware of the situation on [the] park and is currently undertaking a full investigation. We are in dialogue with all parties involved and are committed to handling the matter with professionalism and the utmost care, to ensure minimum disruption for our guests and owners, while we also ensure all appropriate processes and administrative tasks are in place. Should our owners have any concerns, our team is here to support them.”

Consumer protections

CAROLE Keeble runs the Holiday Park Action Group – a Facebook group with more than 40,000 members – and the Caravan Owners Advisory Team, which supports consumers. She said that as offshore firms own many of Scotland’s holiday parks, “the Great British Holiday Park really doesn’t exist – they’re just an investment vehicle to be exploited”.

There has been “little or no appetite from regulators to enforce the rights of caravan owners under consumer law” for decades, Keeble argued. This “has led to industry practices which routinely breach consumer rights”, including licence agreements given to caravan owners by park operators which lack “the security of tenure they purport to offer”.

Despite a strong reputation for UK consumer laws, “everyday consumers” are not protected unless they take on costly legal battles, she claimed. “We don’t advise anyone to buy a caravan or lodge as the risks are far too common for them to be anything other than industry standard by design. The losses for consumers are eye-watering.”

Following a petition to launch a public inquiry into alleged unfair practices at holiday parks, which reached 12,399 signatures, the UK Government said it had no plans to do so.

Such bad practices are prohibited by Consumer Law and Trading Standards services, with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) responsible for enforcement, it said.

The CMA said it is up to each local authority’s trading standards departments to uphold consumer rights. Complaints about holiday parks should be made to Advice Direct Scotland, it added.

The National Caravan Council (NCC) industry trade association said it “promotes principles of best practice across the industry and is committed to ensuring operational standards and contractual information on parks remain clear, transparent and fair”.

It provides “model contract documents” for member park owners to sell caravans and a best practice guide, and gives consumers free access to a complaints, conciliation and dispute resolution service, a spokesperson said.

The NCC is an affiliate member of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and follows its guidance, including on conducting sales and providing contracts, the spokesperson added.

Who owns Scotland’s caravan parks?

PARKDEAN, which has parks across Scotland, was bought by Onex, a Canadian corporation headed by billionaire Gerry Schwartz, for £1.35bn in 2017. In 2022, Onex bought Hanson European Caravan Transport Ltd – a leading UK static caravan transport company.

Haven, which has parks in South Ayrshire and East Lothian, is ultimately owned by the US-based global investment firm Blackstone – via a company incorporated in the tax haven of Jersey.

It paid around £3bn for Bourne Leisure, which includes Haven, in 2022.

The 2017 Panama Papers leak revealed Blackstone avoided tens of millions of pounds in UK taxes on property deals in Glasgow and London. Blackstone previously said its investments were “wholly compliant with UK tax laws”.

Caravan owners at Haven sites in England and Wales have reported fee spikes in recent years, despite claims of ageing facilities at some sites.

Away Resorts owns Moffat Manor and Piperdam in Angus. Its ultimate owner, CVC Capital Partners, which is based in the tax haven of Luxembourg, was branded a “secretive buyout firm” by Bloomberg. It claims to manage around £120bn of assets.

It paid £250m for a majority stake in Away Resorts in 2021, and snapped up Aria Resorts months later, as part of a £600m merger.

Park Holidays has sites in Moray and South Ayrshire. It was bought by US investment firm Sun Communities for £950m in 2021. US mobile home communities reported price hikes and declining services since being taken over by the firm.

After it took over a Moray site in 2022, Park reportedly banned permanent residency, told owners to pay more than £40,000 for new caravans or leave and hiked prices by 50%, despite claims of poor site maintenance. Park also vowed to take an 18% cut of what they sold their lodges for, according to reports.

The company’s bookings rose by 30% in 2022, and is on track to exceed this in 2023.

Park Holidays told The Ferret that accommodation on its sites “cannot be used as a permanent residence”.

“This is a condition of the site licence issued by local authorities to all holiday parks throughout the UK,” a spokesperson claimed.

They disputed the alleged 50% price hike, claiming the increase was below inflation.

“Commission payable upon the sale of a holiday home is clearly detailed in the written agreement to which holiday home-owners agree before their purchase,” they added.

Parkdean, Haven and their owners did not respond to requests to comment.

The Ferret is an editorially independent, not-for-profit co-operative run by its journalists and subscribers. You can find it at and can subscribe for £5 a month here:

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