He added that there were indications from the consultation undertaken by the DCLG that this test might be introduced later, when the legislation had bedded in. However, he thought that powers should be included within the legislation now as it could be as long as ten or 15 years before there was another opportunity.
The Congress was attended by about 175 delegates. General Secretary, Bob Holland, told attendees he didn’t want delegates to think they were in some kind of war zone. There are good parks and good owners, he said, illustrating that comment by recalling an incident on a park he had visited. ‘The park was beautiful,’ he said, ‘with lovely communal gardens, well-maintained roads and delightful individual homes and gardens.
‘One lady had her home up for sale and I asked if she was having trouble selling. She said “no”, adding that the park owner takes care of everything. He appoints the estate agent, books the advertising and when the home is sold he takes all of his expenses out of the 10% commission he receives!’
Mr Holland said the most important aims of the Congress included getting rid of the climate of fear on parks, getting park homes re-classified (they are currently classified as ‘chattels’), and replacing the ten per cent commission charge on home sales with a new sliding scale.
Bernard Johnson, from the Park Home Residents’ Action Alliance (PHRAA), welcomed the new Congress. He explained why this is an extremely important time for park home residents because the Government is finally taking note of their problems and responding positively to them.
He urged delegates to encourage other residents both on their own park and on nearby ones to band together, form residents’ associations and join Congress. He stressed the need to have ‘qualifying residents’ associations’ on parks to give strength in numbers.
Detective Inspector Mark Colquhoun, of West Mercia Police, was the next speaker. He led Operation Kingpin, which resulted in the conviction of two park owners and their associates (for arson, blackmail and conspiracy to defraud) with jail sentences totalling 64 years.
Describing the way the police handled the investigation, the Detective Inspector said that one of the biggest challenges was that they didn’t really know what they were looking at. They didn’t know about park homes but thanks to discussions with legal expert Graham Watts they gradually understood how the park home industry worked. ‘We just couldn’t understand it at first,’ said Detective Inspector Colquhoun. ‘We subsequently learned, of course, about the vast sums of money involved.’
But although some of the West Mercia police force gained insight into the park home world through this case, Mark Colquhoun said that the majority of police forces are still not conversant with park home law. Therefore, it often happens that a resident making a complaint at a police station is told that it is a ‘civil dispute’. While admitting that the police must do better, he also stressed that residents should not be ‘fobbed off’ with a response like that.
Anyone requiring further information about the National Park Home Owners’ Congress can visit the website at www.parkhomecongress.com.
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