Consultation on year-round caravan living in Wales

Caravan park
Image caption This caravan site has been proactive in ensuring people stay within the rules

The law could soon be changed in Wales to make it harder for people to live in holiday caravans all year round.

A consultation is being launched inviting views on people who live in static caravans at holiday parks.

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar says thousands living in caravans, without paying council tax, put strain on council resources and the NHS.

He is to introduce a Welsh assembly bill assembly to tighten rules but some parks say it would be "a step too far".

A consultation on a new law will run until 13 September.

Conservative AM Mr Millar says thousands who live in static caravans are not allowed to do so.

'Great success story'

He won a ballot among AMs earlier this year for the chance to bring a new law before the Senedd.

He said the holiday caravan industry was a "great Welsh success story," but he added: "The industry is not without its problems."

"I am aware that a minority of site operators and residents do not stick to either the spirit or the letter of the law.

"I see this as a risk to the future of the industry as a whole.

"We want to hear from caravan park owners. We want to hear from people who live in caravans - anonymously if necessary - and we want to hear from anyone who's got a view on the issue."

In Conwy, Councillor Bob Squire recently chaired a committee to look into the issue.

He said: "A number of people have given up permanent traditional housing in favour of a cheaper option.

'More looking after'

"In some cases, people have sold or rented out the houses they used to live in elsewhere.

"Our research found that there were 5,000 people living in holiday caravans in Conwy county alone.

"But they're not paying council tax and we don't get anything from the Welsh government towards the services they're using.

Mr Squire added that the cost to Conwy council was considerable, and said people in the holiday caravans all year round were also putting a strain on the health service.

"What makes it more complicated is that a lot of these people are elderly, and elderly people require more looking after," he said.

But Mark Whitehouse who runs a holiday park at Towyn, Conwy, said he works hard to stop people breaking the rules.

"We're very pro-active, so we don't have an issue," he said.

"It's knowing your park and knowing your customers.

"I don't think the problem is as bad as is being made out.

'Obvious choice'

"If you look at the A55 on a Sunday evening, you'll see thousands of caravan owners heading home after enjoying a holiday and contributing to the Welsh economy.

But he admitted that some people do live in caravans all year long, largely because of a change in their circumstances.

"There are examples like a couple getting divorced, and dad has to leave the family home," said Mr Whitehouse.

"It's an obvious choice to make - if they own a caravan, they'll go and stay there.

"That's how it comes about, more so than because of unlawful practice by the holiday parks.

"A new law would be a step too far, like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionClwyd West AM Darren Millar says thousands living in caravans, without paying council tax, put strain on council resources and the NHS

"The local authorities do already have the power to address problem parks if abuses are continuing, but they don't have a duty to do so.

"So a new law would just be a piece of paper if it wasn't enforced. Really, enforcement is the key, not a new law.

"The industry is looking at this, so if a new law is going to happen, we will engage with the assembly to make sure it's appropriate and fit for purpose.

"A bad law will just tie us up in red tape and achieve nothing."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites