The owner of a retirement park whose occupants are facing eviction after a planning dispute put his own financial interest first when he missold them homes, a court heard.
William Flannigan knew “perfectly well” the limitations on the planning permission on chalets he built at Lakeminster Park, on the outskirts of Beverley, but made “untrue statements” to many, leaving some retired householders now facing “ruin”, it was alleged at Hull Crown Court.
Opening the Crown’s case against Mr Flannigan, who is accused of fraud by false representation, David Gordon said the site was marketed to attract semi-retired and retired people, who bought their homes on the understanding they could live there permanently. However Mr Flannigan only had permission from East Riding Council for holiday homes and people were not permitted to use the chalets as their sole residence, Mr Gordon said.
Some sold their only home to buy a chalet, with Mr Flannigan sometimes helping dispose of the “bricks and mortar”.
In one case, Alan and Karen Roberts, who had a home on Hull’s Bransholme estate, ran into problems with their building society when they wanted to transfer their £40,000 mortgage to their new £130,000 home on Lakeminster Park.
When it objected on the grounds it was “moveable” - the chalets can be towed away - the court was told Mr Flannigan offered to personally loan them £60,000 to pay off their mortgage and he would take ownership of their house. They agreed to pay him back at £500 a month. They moved to Lakeminster Park in 2008 - Mr Flannigan had paid for a solicitor for them - but they became alarmed when they received their licence agreement to find their “permanent” home was referred to as a “holiday home.”
Mr Roberts challenged Mr Flannigan and he told him the wording “was just a formality and nothing that he and his wife needed to be concerned about.”
Mr Gordon said: “It is an important element of this case, we submit, that Mr Flannigan at no time asked for or sought planning permission which would allow permanent residential use of the chalets and was left in no doubt by the council, we say, that such an application for permanent residential development would be turned down.”
The jury was told conditions on the permission granted in 2006 made it clear the chalets were for holiday use only, but admitted the wording was “unhappily phrased in that it permitted 52 weeks occupancy.” However Mr Gordon insisted Mr Flannigan could have been left in “no doubt” after Trading Standards intervened in 2007 to raise concerns about homes being advertised in a way that could mislead people into thinking they could live there all year round. He said: “The prosecution case is that Mr Flannigan was well aware of the true position and made untrue statements that he knew to be untrue to many customers over the years and in doing so he gained a significant financial advantage and has caused a significant financial loss to others, in some cases bringing about their financial ruin. Some are facing eviction from homes they bought in good faith and which they would have the greatest difficulty in reselling even if they could find a buyer.”
Mr Flanning denies 10 counts of fraud by false representation. The trial continues.