One of the best parts about hitting the campaign trail is being able to hear directly from residents on issues of most importance to them. In the villages around Guildford, challenges around the lack of affordable housing and amenities were raised, along with preservation of green spaces and footpaths, bus routes and potholes. The Labour Party worked to make sure that these particular issues were addressed in the local manifesto.
However issues raised by residents in Guildford’s 16 park homes were some of the most challenging that we came across and really went to the heart of why most of us want to stand as councillors, to make a fundamental difference to our community.
The main points as outlined by residents were as follows:
- Ground Rents: Some were facing ground rent or pitch fee increases of 15% from July 2023 which could be £300 per month on top of council tax bills, generating even more worries on affordability
- Sales Commission: Site owners were “insisting” that a 20% commission was payable even for open market sales and allegedly interfering with the sale. In law, the Mobile Homes Act 1983 limits open market commission to 10% and does not allow interference.
- Repairs: There had also been drainage issues where residents have had to pay £1200 to fix problems as the site owner takes the view that the residents must fix any problems arising in their own site pitch. The contract should be clear on responsibility for repairs in this case.
- Site Location:The site location in terms of access to shops and other amenities were raised (with the closest shops in some village sites being 2 to 3 miles away. For those without a car, this heightened reliance on local and possibly infrequent bus services
Overall there was a definite sense that “knowing your rights” as park home owners was absolutely critical and we distributed a few copies of the document produced by the UK Government “Park Homes: Know Your Rights” (available below) as well as highlighting the work of the independent Leasehold Advisory Service who provide free initial consultations and have specialist knowledge in these areas.
Moreover all site owners are required to be “fit and proper” persons to lawfully operate a park home site from 1st October 2021 any legal violations would be taken into account as part of the site licencing requirements with Guildford Borough Council. As a result we believe that there are mechanisms in place to assist park home owners to ensure fair treatment but this needs to be effectively monitored.
Taking into account the points that were raised, we will undertake the following:
- Raising Awareness: Ensure that Councillors are made aware of specific issues in this sector
- Regulation: Improve regulation for private site owners and monitor its effectiveness
- Bus Services: Ensure that park homes are adequately served by bus services and that there are bus stops close by
- Cost of Living: Act decisively in helping those who are suffering hardship under the cost of living crisis, which has been made worse by the economic wreckage caused by the Conservative Party over the last year
Simon Schofield was recently the Labour candidate for Normandy & Pirbright in the Guildford Borough Council elections.