Lakeminster Park, home to about 100 households, occupies a peaceful corner on the outskirts of Beverley, with streets of tidy bungalows and immaculately-kept gardens.
But now residents fear they may be forced from their retirement haven for alleged breaches of planning control.
Householders have been in tears over letters from East Riding Council warning that it is taking enforcement action at Lakeminster Park, an estate of one and two-bedroom bungalows, which has developed over the past three years on what used to be a caravan site.
Despite residents having paid full council tax, the council now appears to be insisting it should only be used for holidays, as in the original planning conditions.
Officials first contacted residents in May but they were reluctant to speak out, hoping that a solution could be found between the owners and the council. But the mood has darkened following two fruitless meetings with senior officers and a third letter announcing that “it is now progressing enforcement action against the unauthorised occupation of units” and advising that housing officers will be visiting to make an assessment “of each individual’s personal and accommodation needs”.
Connie and Eric Wrighton have just received a telegram from the Queen celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. The Wrightons sold their three-bedroomed home in Headlingley, Leeds, and paid £130,000 for their two-bedroomed bungalow to be near Beverley where their daughter lives.
Mrs Wrighton, 79, said: “When I got this letter I just burst into tears – are they going to turn us out and put us into council housing?
“When we first came on site we were told it was residential. We had been here six weeks when we had a letter from Mr Flannigan (director of Lakeminster Park Ltd) to say this is a holiday home.
“My husband went to see him and was told it was just a matter of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. We were paying council tax and were on the electoral roll; we thought we were doing everything right. Now they are coming with all these letters and it is frightening us to death.”
Alan Coates and David Foulstone twice met the council’s director of planning, Alan Menzies, in which they were assured a solution would be found. “It was like Neville Chamberlain coming back with a piece of paper saying peace in our time,” said Mr Coates.
After the last letter they felt they had to go public and have invited Mr Menzies and Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart to a public meeting on October 14. He said: “As far as we understand the council has to negotiate to come up with a remedy, but they have gone straight into enforcement.
“I think perhaps we would have reluctantly accepted temporary residence, as it would allow us to live here on pretty much the same terms, even though it would be tricky when it came to sell. That was being suggested by Alan Menzies in the first couple of meetings, but everything has gone rapidly and markedly downhill and now we find ourselves on the receiving end of intimidatory and bullying letters. These are not the actions of a caring council.”
A solicitor acting for the site operator, Lakeminster Park Ltd, said the council had not responded to repeated requests for meetings. He said: “They are potentially making a bad situation worse by not engaging in dialogue. From the very outset, we shared the opinion of our barrister with the council and invited them to get their barrister to meet ours, sooner rather than later.
“National planning guidance states that there should be negotiations with the owner to see if there is a way to deal with matters like this without resorting to formal legal action. The last thing anyone wants is having some 200 people living under the threat of being evicted.”
In a statement the council said its latest letter was “in line with council policy” and residents had been pointed to “sources of help”, including trading standards. Lakeminster Park Ltd, Mossway Parks Ltd (the previous operator of the site) and William and Pamela Flannigan had to give a court undertaking in August to ensure prospective residents were aware of the planning restrictions.
It added: “The latest letter to Lakeminster Park occupants informs them that, in line with council policy, an assessment of each individual’s personal and accommodation needs will be carried out before any enforcement action is taken. This will be undertaken by the council’s housing team who will contact occupants to arrange an appointment.”
• Planning permission was given to Flannigan Enterprises Ltd in 2006 for 169 “park homes for holiday use.”
Conditions state that the homes “shall not be occupied as a person’s sole or main place of residence” and are for “holiday purposes only.” However the site licence dated 2008 states: “All park homes shall be used for human habitation all year round and for holiday use only.”
Residents want to know why the planning arm of the council is contesting the use of the homes, when the council tax department appears to be treating them as there full-time. They want to know why the council has done nothing for three years and why it has paid housing benefit to some.