Caravan park owners plead with Boris Johnson to end lockdown for 'fresh air hotels'
“We plead for the survival of our businesses and the communities they sustain” – that is the handwritten sign-off from Ros Pritchard, director-general of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (BH&HPA), in a letter to the prime minister.
Ms Pritchard has written to Boris Johnson on behalf of more than 2,000 members to ask why caravan park owners will not be able to re-open until July at the earliest.
The letter to Boris Johnson points out that most caravan parks were closed on Sunday 22 March, ahead of the legal requirements, “to protect the NHS and save lives”.
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Ms Pritchard challenges why caravan parks should be included with leisure facilities such as pubs and restaurants.
“Holiday and touring parks are ‘fresh air hotels,’” she writes. “Our customers enjoy outdoor holidays in self-contained, self-catering accommodation with full bathroom and kitchen facilities in holiday caravans, chalets, treehouses, safari tents as well as in many touring caravans and motorhomes.”
The Welsh Government’s roadmap to unlocking society and the economy includes the opening of “accommodation businesses without shared facilities” at the same time as “non-essential retail”.
Ms Pritchard writes: “If the Welsh approach were applied in England, that would mean some of our customers could come and stay from 1 June, rather than from 4 July as is currently proposed. One size does not fit all!
“For households which own their holiday caravan, the social-distancing requirements would be identical to those they already follow at their primary residence.
“For holidaymakers who rent holiday caravans and other accommodation from us (without shared facilities), we have well developed social-distancing measures which would safeguard against the risk of infection.
“We recognise fully that the clubs, bars and cafés on holiday parks should remain closed until the time is right for pubs and restaurants to open with social distancing.” Caravan parks and campsite where washing facilities are shared would not be expected to open before other hospitality businesses.
The BH&HPA supplied evidence from a 2019 study which found 91 per cent of customers felt less stressed and 70 per cent took more exercise during their caravan and camping holidays.
The association also pointed out what it called “considerable unfairness” in the current arrangements.
“Consumers can visit their beach hut or boat in a marina today, whilst they cannot visit a holiday caravan which they own on our members’ parks,” wrote Ms Pritchard.
“That is damaging essential business relationships as the law places the onus on the park owner to turn their own customers away.”
The Independent has asked Downing Street for a response.
There has been controversy about whether caravan owners who pay regular sums to parks should be able to claim a refund for time when they cannot access their caravans.
Advice from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) appeared to allow owners to withhold payments or request money back. But the BH&HPA and another body, the National Holiday & Home Parks Alliance, say their legal advice is that the payments are still due because the parks are providing the agreed service of a pitch and security.
BH&HPA members maintain over a third of a million pitches.
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