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Park Homes Legislation

2009 Hydref 30 12:00 AM
Gan Kirsty Williams AM yn Mid Wales Journal Friday 30th October 2009

Whilst there are of course many decent and honourable mobile park owners, sadly there remain a number of less than scrupulous individuals who bully and take advantage of the often elderly and vulnerable residents who have chosen to live out their retirement days in a beautiful setting, within the safety and community of the park home site.

Recently the Assembly had its first ever debate on Park Homes. Having fought alongside Roger Williams MP and park home residents associations for years, I was delighted to see that the Welsh Government is beginning to respond to the very serious problems within this sector. The current Minister for housing, Jocelyn Davies, has taken a stronger interest in this issue than was previously the case; having met with delegations from Caerwnon Park, Builth Wells and Sunny Haven Park, Howey, on a number of occasions and we are finally seeing movement on the issue.

But there is still a long way to go. To own a football team the manager and owner must prove that they are a 'fit and proper person', as must landlords. It is astounding therefore that park home owners do not have to pass this test. It was very positive that during the Assembly debate the Welsh Government voted in favour of the Welsh Lib Dem amendment calling for them to find ways of ensuring that site owners meet 'fit and proper person' criteria. I will be pushing the Minister to put this support into action.

During the debate the Minister announced the long called for Residential Properties Tribunal, which will move park home disputes out of law courts, making resolution cheaper and simpler. I suspect that one of the first complaints that that tribunal will consider will be on the issue of the blocking of selling homes. Before a resident is able to sell their park home, they must have the permission of the park owner, who then vets potential purchasers prior to the sale going through. I have, on more than one occasion, been made aware of cases where the park owner blocks those purchases in an attempt to drive down prices so that they can purchase the home themselves. All too often in desperation residents will sell their home to the park owner, in a desperate attempt to move. One remedy for that situation would be to introduce an element of independence in that process. My colleague Annette Brooke MP has tried to bring forward a private Member's Bill in Westminster seeking the presence of an independent witness in the interviews between park owners and potential buyers, to ensure that everything is above board and that there is no issue of park owners trying to dissuade people from buying a particular property because it is in their financial interest to do so. I have put a similar LCO proposal in the members' ballot which seeks powers to do the same in Wales.

Strong lobbying from the park owner industry in England has seen new laws being watered down and it is important that in Wales we stand strong and lead on park home rights. Our park home owners deserve the same protection as other home owners and the Welsh Government must achieve this.

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