HELP NEEDED FROM ALL PARK HOME RESIDENTS.
Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Monday, 1 November 2021
The Park Home Owners JUSTICE Campaign
President: Sir Peter Bottomley MP
(Father of the House of Commons)
Founder: Sonia McColl OBE
Tel: 07903024612. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Levelling Up Housing and Communities
House of Commons
London SW1A OAA
IT’S TIME TO LEVEL UP
Park Home Residents in Wales enjoy a CPI increase to their pitch fees.
Park Home Residents in England are still forced to pay the much higher RPI increase.
I write as a member of the Park Home Owners JUSTICE Campaign regarding the Government’s promised change from RPI to CPI on the pitch fee payable by park home owners to the site owner.
As you will be aware, Government promised the change from RPI to CPI in October 2018 (when parliamentary time allows.) Three years have now passed and although our founder Sonia McColl, has tried to ascertain if it has been included in the parliamentary time table. Sadly, we can get no clear answer.
Park home owner’s pensions rise by CPI and the continued use of RPI – particularly in these times when food, fuel and petrol are rising – is very unhelpful to those who have a limited income.
May I therefore respectfully request that if Government has not been able to find time in its programme for the promised change from RPI to CPI; that it offers it as a hand-out bill to a backbench MP to take forward as a Private Members Bill.
Thanking you in anticipation of an early reply and levelling up action.
I have also copied this letter to my constituency MP asking that he/she will also voice our request.
Friday, 24 September 2021
IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR PARK OWNERS WHO SITE HOMES WITHOUT PLANNING PERMISSION?
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make unauthorised development without planning permission an offence;
to prohibit retrospective planning applications;
and for connected purposes.
The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that everyone who engages with the planning system is on a level playing field and follows the same procedures. It is not to remove permitted development rights, nor is it to target particular communities. Regrettably, in the current planning system, there are loopholes that are all too frequently exploited and, to ensure fairness, it is important that they are closed.
Under current planning rules, development without permission is not a criminal offence. While failure to comply with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence, getting to that point is rare and is very often an overly long and costly process. Too often, people are gaming the system by proceeding with development work, sometimes on a large scale, without having first received or even applied for planning permission. Those engaging in such practices are gambling that, even if the local authority becomes aware of an unauthorised development, if the development is sufficiently advanced, it will prove too time-consuming and costly for the local authority to do much about it. Evidence seems to suggest that they may be right. While there are a range of enforcement powers open to local authorities, including enforcement, contravention and stop notices, they do not appear to be a sufficient deterrent.
Government data from March 2021 show that, in the previous year across England, just under 3,000 enforcement notices were issued, 3,500 planning contravention notices were served, and 49 injunctions were granted by a county court or the High Court.
There are many examples of unauthorised development to be found across the country, both large and small. I will give one current example that is currently impacting on my own constituency of Orpington. As I speak today, an unauthorised development is taking place on Wheatsheaf Hill, on the border of my Orpington constituency and neighbouring Sevenoaks. Since the turn of the year, much activity has taken place on this greenbelt site, where a large area of wooded land has been cleared, six mobile homes have been installed and further work is continuing—all without planning permission. This has caused great concern both to me and to my neighbour, my hon. Friend Laura Trott, as residents on both sides of the constituency boundary have been raising increasing levels of alarm on a daily basis throughout the year.
It has been, to say the least, a very frustrating process. The local planning authority, Bromley Council, was eventually able to obtain a court injunction, but work on the site has continued unabated. Despite daily evidence being provided by residents, including written statements, photographs, videos and drone footage, work has continued with no regard to the court injunction, the objections of local people or the local council. I have personally witnessed work taking place, and I am grateful to those constituents who have provided me with reports of activity and supporting evidence. Sadly, I have also received reports of significant levels of aggression being directed by those responsible for this particular development towards local residents, council officers, and even, incredibly, the local police.
Under section 73A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, a local planning authority can consider a retrospective planning application for works or a change of use that has already been carried out. This type of application is dealt with in the same way as a normal planning application, although the development has already taken place. In theory, therefore, the amount of work carried out by the local planning authority is approximately the same as an application submitted in advance of a development taking place. However, as is the case in the example that I have just cited, retrospective applications will often be controversial, attracting a lot of public attention and correspondence, which can greatly increase the workload of the relevant case officer.
Planning officers have confirmed that retrospective applications often tend to be invalid upon receipt, and this creates additional unnecessary work for the planning authority to resolve them. However, it is possible that the real cost is the fact that the concept exists at all, as the fact that it is possible to apply retrospectively proactively encourages unauthorised development. The evidence is overwhelming that, on a large number of occasions, developers believe that once a development is in place they are more likely to get planning permission. That is an encouragement for them to take that risk.
In most cases, where retrospective applications are refused, enforcement action follows, which can be lengthy and costly for the local planning authorities. Indeed, some applicants deliberately draw out a situation where they know enforcement action is inevitable, knowing that they will have a right of appeal if it is refused. While enforcement notices can be issued, the right of appeal means that a breach of planning can last very significant periods of time before the site in question can be restored to its former state—if indeed it can be restored at all.
The scope of this proposed legislation is therefore to remove remaining permissible grounds for unauthorised developments. Instead, by making unauthorised developments an offence, both the appeal route and the right of retrospective applications will be removed.
In closing, I wish to express my gratitude to Bromley councillors Tony Owen and Colin Smith, who provided me with much of the original thinking behind this Bill, and to colleagues who are supporting me in the Chamber today. We are acutely aware of the damage that this problem causes, and we are supporting our constituents where such development has blighted their communities.
I recognise the challenges that a private Member’s Bill faces to get onto the statute book, which is why I request that Ministers meet with me and co-sponsors to consider adopting this legislation as part of any forthcoming planning Bill that emerges. Together, we have the opportunity to bring about lasting change to the planning system for the benefit of our constituents.
Question put and agreed to.
That Gareth Bacon, Lee Anderson, Mr John Baron, Felicity Buchan, Gareth Davies, Ben Everitt, Jonathan Gullis, Tom Hunt, Marco Longhi, Sir Robert Neill, Tom Randall and David Simmonds present the Bill.
Gareth Bacon accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 165).
Wednesday, 4 August 2021
PAUL BAKER INSURANCE SERVICES are delighted to announce the return of their popular PARK HOME ROAD SHOWS. The first one will be held on 28th October 2021 at Cobham Village Hall, Cobham, KT11 2LU. It will start at 2.00pm and finish at 4.00pm. Numbers will be limited to around 120 and you will need to book in advance.
The full line up of speakers is still being confirmed but it is anticipated that the event will be chaired by Alex Melvin, Editor of Park Home & Holiday Caravan Magazine, speakers so far include Ibraheem Dulmeer, barrister and mediator and expert on park home law, Sonia McColl of the Park Home Owners’ JUSTICE Campaign and Park-HELP-Line, Paul Baker from sponsors Paul Baker Insurance Services, a leading park home insurance provider, and a representative from IPHAS, the Independent Park Home Advisory Service.
The format of the event will be a 10 minute presentation from each speaker following by a Question and Answer session. There may be an opportunity for individual consultations after 4.00pm but the hall must be vacated by 5.00pm. Tea and coffee will be available on arrival, there is limited car-parking on site, the event is FREE to attend.
Pre-booking is essential, please email email@example.com or call Paul on 01242 505840, we will need the name and address of all attendees.
We look forward to seeing you at Cobham !
Friday, 2 July 2021
SENTENCED FOR STEALING Sonia's Home
The thieves Darren Baseley and Stewart Gregory have now been sentenced at Exeter Crown Court on Friday 2nd July 2021.
Darren Baseley to 20 months custody
Stewart Gregory to 22 month custody
May I thank all those wonderful PHOJC members who have supported me over almost four years. Both you and I know who you are and I will never be able to thank you enough.
It has been one hell of a journey and I have been unable to comment throughout this period but to now finalise this epic I have copied below “My Victim’s Impact Statement” - which I read out in court prior to the sentencing.
Hopefully it may go some way in helping any other park home residents who are fighting their own personal battle and perhaps show that even through fear and loss you really can win through.
In the words of Winston Churchill.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” and “Never, never, never give up.”
Victim Impact Statement of Sonia McColl
The impact from the theft of my home has dominated, changed and consumed every part of my existence for the last three years. My life being the only thing that is truly mine. Fear, loss, anger and stress have been my constant day and night companions – but these are only words – you have to experience this to know how it truly feels.
My initial stress was indescribable; a mixture of shock, horror at my situation and a numbness (where my mind almost refused to accept what I was being told.) As a widow, I felt desperately alone, helpless and very very vulnerable. I really did not know what I could do to make things better as everything I had worked all my life for was gone and I could not buy another home.
I could not even claim insurance because the home was only insured whilst being transported and on the trailer. It was not insured when removed from the trailer; therefore, my loss is a total loss that I was not responsible for and I had no way to recover from it. When I asked Darren Baseley why it was taken off the trailer, he replied “what and get our trailer nicked.” Needless to say, I felt physically sick.
Fear is very deep rooted in my everyday life. This was brought about by the words of the thief, Darren Baseley, to my daughter, when he said in relation to the theft “Your mother walked all over the site owners and she deserves this.” He also said that he knew two of the site owners who belonged to the traveller community; and that he had telephone numbers relating to individuals. In addition, he admitted reading all about me on google.
As founder of the Park Home Owners Justice Campaign that changed the law to stop sale blocking and legally prevented site owners from stealing the equity of park home residents; I was now 100% sure that the theft of my home was pay-back and I was fearful because I had seen the outcome of the wicked things that site owners would do to residents.
I was asked by the Police to accompany them to The Glen in Bromsgrove and speak to the media on behalf of the residents who were too fearful of retribution from known criminal site owners who had burnt down their homes. From the time that Darren Baseley made his statement regarding his connection with the traveller community, I have never felt safe again and am always looking over my shoulder.
I knew that by trying to get justice for myself, the family who were temporarily housing me feared retribution to their home because those who were arrested knew of their address. The Police even arranged for protection people to talk to both them and me – but kind as they were to shelter me, I knew I had to leave because I could not inflict any form of retribution upon them or their home – but I had nowhere to go.
For over a year I was homeless, reliant on the goodwill of family, friends, B & Bs and park home residents around our country who offered me a bed. I only had my small car and would often sit in it watching the lights in other people’s houses; knowing my car was the only refuge I owned.
Always while driving, I look in the mirror and if I think I am being followed, my heart races, and I turn into a side street. No one should have to live like this and many times, when being interviewed by the media, I worried about the retribution it would bring – but if I did nothing, the thieves would get away with it; so, I carried on, moved to another county and tried to get on to a housing register.
Not easy, if you are not already a resident as every door is blocked and all the time my feelings of hopelessness and vulnerability grew. Certainly, the mental cruelty of impending danger is a fear that changes you and I know that will stay with me forever if I continue to live in the UK.
When they stole my home, they stripped me of everything except my life. My refuge, my safety, my privacy, my bed (where I could sleep) my cooker (where I could feed myself) my toilet, my ability to wash in private, my relaxation in my chair, my TV entertainment, a place to hang my clothes and a door to close that would help to keep me safe.
All that I had worked for was stolen from me; which of course meant the inheritance of the value of my home (when sited) that I wanted to leave to my children.
Although I was sure my home was stolen as payback for my work in the Justice campaign, I was determined they would not take my self-respect and make me so frightened that I would close down the Justice Campaign or the Park-HELP-Line that I run. But to protect myself I changed my name by deed poll. It was very painful to reject my late husband’s name, but for my safety I knew that it had to be done. Since then, I have led a double life. Running the Justice Campaign and Park-HELP-line under my original name and living daily as someone else.
After many months, while having breakfast in an early morning café; I received a telephone call saying that I was being offered a place to live. It is impossible to tell you how wonderful that call sounded and for the first time since my life was ripped apart, I felt excited. Sadly, my fear of being found has made me exclude myself from the electoral register, have a withheld telephone number and remain as anonymous as I can. This in turn has meant that I have been unable to even share my new name and address with friends (which has led to a certain amount of isolation.)
Attempts to find me have been aimed at my face-book page, ebay account, linked-in and equifax have reported that attempts were made to steal my identity and take loans out in my name. These instances continue to add fear to my life.
However, I now have a rented roof over my head. It is not mine to own and is a situation that I never wanted to be in and I have nothing to leave to my children – but I am grateful to have a door with a lock, bolt and chain to close on the world and anyone that might hurt me. I have coded locks on the gate to the garden and I have also had security cameras fitted so that I can see who is at the door or approaching the home – but in all honesty, I can’t really imagine how I will ever truly feel safe again.
Along with insult, that is what those thieves have done to me and they have shown no remorse whatsoever. I have done nothing to them but they have profited from what they have done to me. They know where my home is. They know to whom they sold it and who is living in it. They have stolen from me and stolen my family’s inheritance – and that is not a 30.000 home because for me to replace it would cost in excess of 60,000 and once sited on the private land it would be worth a minimum of 160.000.
I believe I am at liberty, your honor, to offer my viewpoint on a sentence. In my humble opinion, as the injured party, they both need to be put away for a long time to reflect at length on the misery their greed has caused
The regional CPS Crown Prosecution Service threw my case out initially. I appealed – as was my right. The supervisor of the original officer threw it out again. Many individuals might not know that you can in fact appeal to the CPS in London. I did this and low and behold it passed the two tests. One being the evidential test and two being in the public interest. I tell you this because if you know you are right, NEVER, NEVER, GIVE UP. Had I accepted the first CPS decision; these two thieves would still be walking about. Laughing all the way to the bank; no doubt thinking how clever they had been and putting two fingers up at me, the Police and the Law.
For all that has been thrown at me - I could not be happier now. I am stronger. I have learned a great deal and have succeeded in what I set out to do and they have lost their freedom. If my story helps just one person to fight for their rights. Then the outcome of the trial will be doubly worthwhile.
My best wishes and thanks to you all. I will continue to keep you updated on the 10% Commission Charge and RPI to CPI that you have all fought for.
Saturday, 19 June 2021
FROM THE DAILY MIRROR.
Mobile home parks hero Sonia McColl forced into hiding - "I don't think I'll ever feel safe"
Campaigner living in fear as two crooks who stole her park home are convicted
Guilty: Darren Baseley, left, and Stewart Gregory (Image: supplied via Andrew Penman)
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Sonia McColl was speaking after the conviction last week of two men for stealing her 10-ton 40ft mobile home.
Widow Mrs McColl, the 72-year-old founder of the Park Home Owners Justice Campaign, said she moved out of a mobile home park in 2017 following death threats and late-night banging on her door.
In November that year she arranged for her home to be transported to her daughter’s house in Devon.
It was stolen one night after being offloaded in the yard of a haulage firm and has never been recovered.
The value is put at around £28,000, though if sited on a park home pitch it would be nearer £200,000.
Sonia McColl and her stolen mobile home
Although insured for the journey, the policy became invalid when it was taken off the truck and left in the haulage yard.
Fairground operator Stewart Gregory, 43, of Normandy in Surrey, was last week found guilty of theft by a jury at Exeter crown court.
Darren Baseley, 47, of Cranbrook near Exeter, admitted theft. He was found not guilty of blackmail, having been accused of demanding money from two other individuals in exchange for not implicating them in the crime.
Both men are due to be sentenced next month. There’s no suggestion that either of the detestable pair are responsible for the intimidation endured by Mrs McColl.
After the case she said she plans to be in court to read out her victim impact statement, saying: “I can’t wait to see their wicked evil faces in the dock.” She believes the theft was linked to her high-profile fight against park home abuses.
“They knew who I was because one evening before it was stolen I was phoned by Mr Baseley and he told me that he was reading all about me on Google,” she said.
“I thought, do you do this to all your customers, put their names into Google and look them up?
“My daughter said in her witness statement that Mr Baseley told her ‘Your mother walked all over the site owners, she deserved this’.
"My home was lovely, it was fully kitted out, so when they stole it they literally took everything. I don’t have anything now to leave to my children.
Now I have a rented home, it's wonderful to have four walls and roof but it's not mine. That's something I have to accept, it's better than having nothing at all.”
Now Mrs McColl says she is living a double life, keeping her surname for her campaign work while living with a new identity at an undisclosed address.
She said: “After the theft I spent the better part of a year sleeping in friends’ houses and B&Bs, and eventually managed to get a sheltered home and changed my name. I really was very fearful.
“I could have moved into a room with my daughter and her husband but they’re a young couple and don’t need that, apart from which there were fears of retribution.
“I’m not being a drama queen but I don’t honestly think I’ll ever feel safe. The only time I did feel safe was when I went to another country and I was walking through the streets and thought ‘Do you know, I’m not looking over my shoulder’.”
Remarkably, she is determined to continue with the campaign, vowing to “see things through”.
“At the trial only the judge knew my new name,” she said.
“I’ve been keeping it quiet so I can continue with the work I’m doing and also live a quiet life where people know me as somebody else.”
In 2012, this column named Mrs McColl as one of its heroes of the year for fighting on behalf of park home residents.
Her campaign secured a ban on park home companies preventing residents from selling their homes.
This sale-blocking had meant that residents could have had little choice but to sell their homes to the site management for a pittance.
In 2014 Mrs McColl was awarded an OBE for her work.
The campaign has continued by calling for an end to sites charging commission of 10% when residents sell their homes, Mrs McColl calling it “money for doing nothing”.
She also wants increases in site fees to be linked to the consumer price index, which is what pension increases are based on.
"The government has agreed to this when parliamentary time allows," she said.
"That's what I've been hanging on for over these last four years. Here we are in 2021 and they're still haggling over it, that's why I kept it going and wouldn't give up the justice campaign, to try to see things through."
Another grievance involves site managers selling homes that have been put on plots that, unknown to the buyers, do not have planning permission, an issue I covered here.
Last week, Wyldecrest Parks, which runs 58 mobile sites across the UK, was fined £100,000 over an unlawfully sited home at Bayworth Mobile Home Park, Oxfordshire.
It had sold the home to a retired couple, Oxford Magistrates Court was told.
Mrs McColl is also calling for changes to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Park Homes, saying it is too closely tied to vested business interests.
"There are still a lot of abuses going on and what we need is a different APPG, one that doesn't have the industry as it's secretariat, because that's completely wrong as far as I'm concerned, it's a multi-million pound industry with tremendous lobbying power.