1.1 This report provides analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's recent consultation on the Licensing of Caravan Sites in Scotland. The proposals, which focus on improving the site licensing and enforcement regime, were developed jointly with local authority, industry and resident stakeholders. Although the emphasis is on improving management standards on those sites where people live permanently, the consultation also sought views on the types of site that should be covered by any future licensing regime.
1.2 The current licensing regime is governed by the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (from now referred to as the 1960 Act), which sets out the criteria that must be met in order to qualify for a site licence and also covers the conditions that may be attached to a site licence. Any changes to the licensing regime would be brought in through updating the 1960 Act.
1.3 The principal focus of the current proposals is on strengthening the licensing regime to protect the welfare of permanent residents. However, there is evidence to suggest that a small minority of residents are living permanently on sites that are only licensed for holiday or restricted occupancy. These residents are particularly vulnerable as they are not covered by the legal protections offered by the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (from now referred to as the 1983 Act). Such residents, even if occupying a mobile home as their only or main residence, do not have any statutory protections since the 1983 Act does not apply to sites which have a licence for holiday or restricted use only.
1.4 Whilst wishing to ensure that no additional burdens are placed on already well-run holiday sites, the Scottish Government also wishes to ensure that a less comprehensive site licensing regime does not result in the holiday sector becoming more attractive to unscrupulous site owners. The consultation sought views on whether a revised licensing regime should be applied to:
- Permanent residential sites, generally known as either residential mobile home or park home sites;
- Caravan sites that are either a mixture of holiday and residential or are exclusively for holiday use; and
- Gypsies/Travellers living on privately owned sites which require to be licensing.
1.5 As at present, it is anticipated that the administration of any future Site Licensing regime would be undertaken by the local authority in whose area the site is located. At this point, dialogue is ongoing with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to consider the impact of an enhanced role.
1.6 The current process is largely determined by the relationship between planning permission and licensing. Under the 1960 Act land cannot be used as a caravan site unless the owner holds a site licence and a licence can only be granted if the applicant for the license has planning permission for the use of the land as a caravan site. A local authority can request further information from an applicant for a licence and is not obliged to issue a licence until that information has been received. However, under the current arrangements a local authority cannot withhold a licence if information is supplied but is not to their satisfaction.
The consultation process
1.7 The consultation period ran from 21st May to 13th August 2012and sought views on the following proposals for improvement to the site licensing and enforcement regime:
- The introduction of statutory minimum application criteria, with this information required to be submitted to the local authority at the point of request for a licence;
- The introduction of a Fit and Proper Person Test for each person, company or partnership applying for a site licence or to participate in the management of the site;
- Amending current provision to require the licensing authority to notify the applicant of the approval or decline of the licence as soon as practicable after a decision has been made;
- Requiring the local authority to undertake a site inspection;
- Increasing fines for non-compliance with licence conditions up to a maximum of £50,000 and introducing a new power which would give the local authority the ability to serve a formal Improvement Notice on the licence holder;
- Giving the local authority powers to revoke a site licence where other routes of enforcement activity have not had the required impact;
- Giving the local authority an option of a Management Order (to order that a managing agent is appointed to manage the site, to remove the site owner's right for contact with the residents, or to apply to the Courts for a Management Order to take over the running of the site);
- Introducing a Penalty Notice whereby the local authority can impose a suspension of pitch fee payments should the site owner fail to apply for a site licence and meet the licensing conditions within a set period of time; and
- Entitling local authorities to charge a fee on application for a site licence, and at the licence renewal stage.
1.8 Views were also sought on the duration of a site licence and the appropriate period for renewal. This report sets out the findings from the analysis of all responses received. Please note that, wherever possible, the report uses the same terminology as the Consultation Paper. In particular, the term park home is used to refer to permanent residential homes situated on licensed sites. Sites licensed exclusively for holiday use are referred to as holiday parks and those that are licensed for both permanent residential and holiday use as mixed use sites. The owners of park home or holiday sites are referred to as site owners and those who own a mobile home or caravan and live on a site as residents. The local authority responsible for administering the licensing regime is referred to as the licensing authority.
Profile of respondents
1.9 A total of 129 responses were received, with 53 submitted by groups or organisations and 76 by individual members of the public. Of the 76 responses submitted by individuals, 55 were submitted by residents of two park homes. In one case, all the residents from the park home who submitted a response gave the same answers. There were two slightly different variations of comments submitted by respondents living on the other park home. These submissions are referred to as standard text responses within this report.
1.10 A profile of the respondents is set out in the table below.
|Resident Groups or Resident Action Groups||6|
|Standard text (Individuals)||55|
1.11 Of the 53 group responses received, 13 were submitted by Local Authorities. The Local Authorities which responded came from across Scotland - ranging from Dumfries and Galloway to Highland and from Eilean Siar to Aberdeenshire - and were varied in their population size (from Fife to Eilean Siar) and urban/rural mix (for example, from Aberdeen City to Aberdeenshire).
1.12 Although only limited information is available on the number of park home sites in any local authority area, local authority respondents also represented a range in terms of number of park home sites in their area (from Dumfries and Galloway which is thought to have around 10 park home sites, through to East Ayrshire which is thought to have none). No information is available on the number of holiday sites in each area, although respondents included areas for which tourism would be expected to play a sizable role in the local economy, such as Highland.
1.13 Of the six responses submitted by Resident Groups or Resident Action Groups, three were from the Residents Group for a specific site (Annsmuir, Millhouse and Riverview) and three were from Resident Action Groups (the Park Home Legislation Action Group Scotland (PHLAGS), the Independent Park Home Advisory Service (IPHAS) and the National Association of Park Home Residents (NAPHR)).
1.14 A further four responses were received from bodies connected with or representing various aspects of the park home or holiday park industries. These were the British Holiday and Home Parks Association Scotland (BH&HPA),The National Caravan Council (NCC), the Federation of Small Businesses and Scottish Land and Estates.
1.15 In addition, a number of owners and operators of park home and holiday sites responded to the consultation. Of the 21 responses received:
- 14 were submitted by respondents who own and/or operate one or more holiday parks only;
- 3 were submitted by owners of park homes only;
- 3 were submitted by owners of mixed use sites; and
- 1 was submitted by someone who owns a park home, a mixed use site and a holiday park.
1.16 The sites owned by the respondents varied considerably in size (from having over 300+ holiday pitches through to around 25 residential pitches) and were also in a various locations across Scotland. Many of the site owners identified themselves as members of the BH&HPA and made reference to or offered support for the BH&HPA's response.
1.17 In addition to the group respondents detailed above, there were 9 other responses received (categorized as 'Other' in the table above). These organisations were: The Caravan Club; Chief Fire Officers Association; Consumer Scotland; Fife Fire and Rescue Service; Hunter's Quay Community Council; Scottish Tourism Alliance; Scottish Water; SLAB Project, Moray and Nairn CAB; and Visit Scotland.
1.18 Although it is not possible to draw any definitive conclusions as to the profile of individual respondents, information available (for example, addresses or comments made within responses) suggests they include both those involved in running park home and/or holiday home sites, as well as those living on park home sites).
1.19 A list of all group and individual respondents who requested their name be published is included within the appendices to this report.
Overall balance of opinion
1.20 The remainder of this report presents analysis of responses given to each of the specific proposals in turn. However, the following points summarise the overall positions of the different stakeholders:
- Those respondents (including group and individual respondents) who approached the proposals from the 'residents perspective' were generally in support of the suggested changes and often expressed clear support for an enhanced licensing and inspection regime;
- Respondents who approached the proposals from the 'industry perspective' disagreed with some of the suggested changes. These respondents often suggested that the proposed regime would impose additional administrative and financial burdens on reputable site owners, but would be unlikely to tackle the problems created by a small number of 'rogue' owners. These respondents also tended to the view that the focus should be on local authorities using their existing powers to tackle the small number of 'rogue owners';
- Industry respondents (industry bodies, site owners and individual who appeared to be site owners) often focused their comments on how the proposals would affect that part of the industry with which they were most closely connected - this applied particularly to respondents who were concerned about the regime being applied to holiday sites. Most other respondents (both group and individual) appeared to focus primarily on the appropriateness of the proposals to the park home industry;
- Local Authority respondents appeared to be supportive of the need for change and of the requirement for an enhanced licensing regime. Local authority respondents also tended to be in broad agreement with most or all of the proposals as put forward, although some did express reservations about certain of the proposals as they currently stand and were generally looking for them to be strengthened. For example, some of these respondents suggested additions to the current proposals in terms of information that a local authority could gather or the reasons why a licence could be refused; and
- There were no apparent connections between the profile of the Local Authority and their response to the proposals. For example, whilst some Local Authorities that have a relatively high number of park home sites within their area did not respond to the consultation at all, detailed responses were received from some Local Authorities that have only a few sites. There was no clear correlation between any Local Authority's views on the proposals and the number of sites in their area.
1.21 Finally, please note that (as is often the case with public consultation exercises) those that supported the proposals often made only limited further comment. This means that the analysis of further comments tends to focus on the views expressed by the usually relatively small proportion of all respondents who disagreed with any particular proposal. Where larger numbers of respondents have made the same point (either in agreement or disagreement) this has been stated. However, many of the other points covered, and particularly those that make very specific or technical points, may only have been raised by a single orsmall number of respondents.
Email: Patricia Campbell