Lakeside Holiday Park bosses have been accused of ‘money-grabbing’ and ‘pure greed’ after telling people to leave their mobile homes by Christmas.
The Observer understands that up to 30 couples have received letters giving them three months to vacate the Chichester park.
Among them are two pensioners in remission from cancer and their wives, who say they have been given no choice but to leave after 12 years there.
“They didn’t even bother to send us a letter,” said Garry Pollard, who is still recovering from bowel cancer who, along with wife Julie, are abandoning their caravan this week.
“The first we heard was when we went to pay next year’s pitch fees and they said come into the office, you’re not going to like what we have to say.”
Garry and Julie bought their van in 2002 for £24,000 and like everyone else were given a ten-year-lease. That ran out in 2012, and for two years they have been paying for a yearly lease, as they say they were told they would always be able to do when they moved there.
Park Holidays UK, who run Lakeside, refute this, saying residents were ‘made fully aware that their right to occupy the pitch was for a ten-year period’.
“When we found out they wanted us out we were gobsmacked,” Julie said. “There had been no mention of having to leave before then, and suddenly they tell us we have to go.
“We were told if we kept our van tidy, didn’t cause noise problems and always paid our bills we would be allowed to stay. I think it’s disgusting. A lot of other people think the same and are being forced to move.”
Garry says his son has been forced to pay for rented accommodation in Bosham for six months so they have somewhere to go over Christmas but after that they will have nowhere to go.
According to the couple, Lakeside has said it won’t offer any money for their van if they leave, or £3,000 if they spend up to £40,000 on a new caravan on the same plot, £5,000 if they spend up to £50,000, and £10,000 if they spend up to £60,000.
“We looked at everything because we’re desperate but we couldn’t afford that sort of debt,” Garry said.
Under the park’s rules people can live in their vans for 50 out of the 52 weeks of the year and must have another registered address.
Garry and Julie have a registered address, but Julie’s elderly mother lives there and there is not enough room to accommodate the couple.
“We know this is a holiday home but we live here for 11-and-a-half months a year so it is our home and we have always paid the bills we’ve been asked to,” Julie said.
“This has put so much stress on Garry, less than a year ago he was having radiotherapy and could hardly get out of bed. We would normally have tried to fight this but Garry doesn’t have the strength.
“We feel angry, resentment, shock that these people could be so money-grabbing. It’s all out of pure greed just to make money.”
The couple say they can’t simply take their van off site because it is nearly impossible to find another holiday park with available pitches.
The Observer spoke to another couple, again where a pensioner had just got over cancer, who were also being forced to move.
They too were angry but said they luckily had found the last pitch at another caravan park in West Sussex.
The park owners said details of the ten-year lease were d in the contract and ‘there was no subsequent commitment from Park Holidays UK to renew the licence agreement on an annual basis thereafter.’
It said ten-year licence agreements were ‘common’ throughout the industry.