Let us stay plea from residents living on knife edge

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles
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Residents who are facing eviction from an East Riding retirement park have written to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to appeal for permission to stay there.

Around 130 householders on Lakeminster Park, near Beverley, have been living on a “knife edge”, in fear of being made homeless, since an inspector upheld East Riding Council’s refusal of planning permission allowing them to live there all year round.

A second public inquiry could be in the offing, however, after the inspector involved in the original inquiry, was found to have “erred in law”.

Twenty residents have now signed a letter to Mr Pickles, asking him to halt the council’s enforcement action, arguing it makes no sense to tear down much-needed homes for older people and that evicting them is neither “proportionate or expedient”.

David Aldcroft, a retired logistic manager, who has been living on the park since 2009, after moving back from Spain, said the thought of eviction was enough to get people into a panic. Since the saga began in 2011, Mr Aldcroft has had major heart surgery.

He said: “There are a lot of people who are quite fragile and this is not helping. I would say to Mr Pickles ‘let common sense prevail and give us residency’.

“My home is 40ft by 20ft and is much bigger than a caravan, everything is plugged into the mains, and they are all fitted with central heating. They are far better than many bungalows, without a doubt. They all have little plots which are well maintained.

“It is just dragging on now, and the more it drags on the longer the pain for everybody. It isn’t a happy Christmas on the site here. Everybody you speak to is just so down in the mouth now.”

Retired civil servant and Lakeminster resident Alan Coates had been due to go to the High Court in early December to challenge the original inspector’s decision. But the case was halted after Mr Pickles – on the advice of the Treasury Solicitor – conceded the inspector erred in law in the way he addressed the matter of housing land supply in his decision letter, but not on six other matters.

Mr Coates believes a second inquiry would be a waste of taxpayers’ money: “Mr Pickles’s own Planning Minister, Nick Boles, has written to councils requiring them to build more bungalows to deal with the growing problem of housing for the elderly. It makes no sense whatsoever to remove new bungalows from this development.

“The only thing this is doing is playing tennis with peoples’ lives. It needs the Treasury lawyers to have a look at it and take a view on the issue of human rights.

“There is no way on earth a Judge would uphold the council’s actions against innocent people.

“We are caught in the middle between the developer and the council, yet the council has seen fit to take maximum enforcement action against vulnerable, elderly residents who are not responsible for this situation.”

Pete Ashcroft, the council’s head of planning, said: “The council is presently considering its response to the Planning Inspectorate’s invitation to comment on how the single error in the Inspector’s decision letter will be corrected and will respond formally shortly.

“The response is expected to support this serious breach of planning control being dealt without undue delay, which will assist the vast majority of caravan residents resolve their disputes with the developer soon.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said they were unable to comment as there may be future hearings.