Chapel St Leonards Parish Council is to seek a meeting with the major caravan site owners in the village early in the New Year in a bid to reduce the financial burden on residents.
The council says it is concerned that the costs of its services are being met ‘exclusively’ by the residents of the village, and that caravan site owners and their temporary residents are getting the benefit ‘without any contribution’.
At its meeting on Monday (December 9), the council heard that business rates paid by the likes of caravan sites is passed straight to HM Treasury, with nothing coming back directly to benefit Chapel St Leonards.
The meeting was concerned that services provided by the parish council to visitors and temporary residents of the caravan sites, such as the provision of the public toilets, cleaning of the beach, sand clearance and litter picking, is paid for by residents of Chapel St Leonards with no contribution from the caravan site owners.
Yet it is the attractiveness of Chapel St Leonards that is bringing income into those sites.
“The parish council is funded from the precept that forms part of the council tax paid by residents,” explained the parish clerk, Michael Green.
“That currently amounts to a total of £59,642 per annum, which equates to £52.22 per annum from a band D property.
“Councillors are concerned that the system is not fair, in that the residents are funding services from which visitors, and therefore caravan site owners, are benefiting without any contribution.
“Unfortunately, only central government has the ability to change that system, and there does not appear to be the desire to do so. Therefore, this demands a different approach.”
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the parish council said it discovered that there are 2,921 caravans registered to the 12 major sites in Chapel St Leonards, and that the total business rate contribution of the sites is £336,989.
Councillors heard that whilst at face value, that appeared to be a reasonable sum, based on the number of caravans and the rents charged, the sites were generating at least an estimated £7.5 million pounds per annum.
East Lindsey District Councillor Mrs Fiona Brown told the meeting that the figures given by that council under the Freedom of Information Act were out of date, and that there were considerably more caravans in the village than the number stated, meaning that the estimated income to the sites could be very much greater.
The meeting felt that it was time that the caravan sites recognised the benefits the parish council is bringing to their businesses and help to fund those services that benefit their customers.
“We have tried the approach before,” commented the council’s responsible finance officer, Councillor Mel Turton-Leivers. “But without much success. Only one of the caravan sites made any sort of voluntary contribution.
“Many of the sites have plans to expand and the parish council is taking a pragmatic approach to that.
“We welcome visitors and recognise the benefits they bring to local businesses through spending. This in turn generates jobs, some of which hopefully go to local people.
“But it is fundamentally wrong that those sites should benefit at the expense of the residents of the village.”
The parish council will be seeking a meeting with the caravan site owners early in the New Year to explore avenues for helping out with the costs of its services.
“We are hoping that the site owners will agree to a meeting,” said the chairman of the council, Councillor Patrick Naughton.
“We need to have an open dialogue so that we can provide a better level of service that will benefit residents and visitors alike, without increasing the financial burden on the rate-payers of Chapel St Leonards.”