Caravan owners at a Welsh holiday park say they might mount a self-funded legal challenge against increased rental fees, saying Haven cannot justify large increases on a “run-down” park with ageing facilities.
Around 115 signatures opposing the increase in fees have been collected by residents at the site, who claim the increase will put their ground fees on a par with luxury caravan parks despite having access to just one pool and a "broken" sauna. That's more than half the residents there. Haven said the cost of running their parks has increased significantly and said repairs identified would be fixed and the site monitored through 2023.
Caravan owners also say they now face an "impossible" choice at the Cardigan View site at Morfa Bychan, near Porthmadog.. One complained he was now having to accept a £1,840 rent rise or write off £26,000 after only 10 months at the adjacent Greenacres Holiday Park, which is also owned by Haven.
One owner said the proposed fee increase was disproportionate to the services provided at her site: “In recent years the park has become increasingly shoddy with few signs of maintenance," Victoria, who asked for her surname to be withheld.
"The sauna doesn’t work and a resident told me it hasn’t worked in the six years she’s been there. Two men are employed to go around the gardens on a tractor, but they don’t seem to do much. If we could see our increased fees going towards improved facilities, they would be easier to accept, but they’re not.”
Like many other Haven-owned sites, Cardigan View is currently closed for winter. Angered by an apparent lack of maintenance, residents collected photos of the park’s appearance. These showed broken doors and fences, overflowing bins and benches held together by gaffer tape. That was last autumn, before this year’s rent increases. Last week, both Cardigan View and Greenacres were flooded, though any damage is thought to be minimal.
After moving to Cardigan View two years ago, Victoria’s family paid £10,000 for wrap-around decking at their caravan. She claimed it was fitted clumsily and is falling apart: “It’s dark red and, when it was fitted, there were scratches everywhere,” she said. “Every time we go there, another piece has fallen off. But when I complained to the general manager, I was handed a telephone number and told to sort it out with the contractors.”
In addition to their own facilities, Cardigan View residents can access pool and entertainment amenities at neighbouring Greenacres. But few do, according to Victoria: “Many owners have been here many years and some are quite elderly,” she said. “They like Cardigan View and are quite happy with its swimming pool – when it’s open. It used to be open 11 months a year, now it’s nine months, and even then you sometimes arrive to find it's closed for various reasons."
Haven is not alone in bringing in rent rises. It said it takes park maintenance "very seriously" and all issues identified will be repaired. The operator said it provides a “high level of service” and the fee increases were needed to “maintain the quality of our parks”.
The petition was rejected by Haven. Instead, the company said it would only accept complaints from individual owners. It apologised but said it “cannot deviate from our procedures”.
“Our petition had more than 50% of the site’s owners,” said Victoria. “Hopefully we can generate a similar number of letters. I think we will because there is a lot of upset amongst our owners. One couple has been here 26 years but they are having to sell up because they can’t afford the fee increase.
e are now discussing whether to put money into a pot to pay for a solicitor to challenge these unfair price rises. We don’t really want to go down this road. As a business owner, I understand that costs and salaries are going up and that these must be passed on – but we are not getting value for money.”
Other residents say they have found themselves “trapped” by a form of negative equity, especially those with newer and more expensive caravans. One owner told North Wales Live his site fee went from £5,640 to £7,400. Having paid £38,000 for a second-hand caravan, he spent a further £6,000 on composite decking. The latter will be written off if he leaves, while the caravan is now only worth £18,000, meaning he faces a £26,000 loss after only 10 months on the site.
Haven said that, like many businesses, it is suffering rising energy costs and inflationary input prices. These, said the company, are “impacting every aspect of our operations”. A spokesperson said: “While we have been working hard to offset these impacts, the cost of running our parks has increased significantly. This means to maintain the quality of our parks and a high level of service for our valued holiday homeowners, site fees have increased in 2023.”
Haven said issues found at Cardigan Bay will be fixed and the park will be monitored during 2023. Haven said the site's pool, reception and gym are always open during the season "unless undergoing repairs".