Monday, April 14, 2014
Concerns were voiced this week over the future of Southwold camping and caravan site after two reports proposed that it be could be redeveloped.
The near-identical documents suggest upgrading the site in Ferry Road and reducing the number of caravan bases from 158 to 151, and touring pitches from about 100 to 94 .
The reports were obtained by the chairman of the Southwold Caravan Owners’ Association Steven Langston after a Freedom of Information request to Waveney District Council.
The documents – entitled The 2020 Vision and Defend They Ryght – were both prepared by the company Tingdene Parks, which runs the North Denes holiday park in Lowestoft in partnership with Waveney.
The company surveyed the Southwold site and its findings were presented to Southwold Town Council’s harbour working group and Waveney towards the end of last year.
Mr Langston said caravan owners were concerned they would be forced to move off the site or buy new and expensive caravans if redevelopment plans went ahead.
He said they were suspicious that Waveney had not initially published the reports and were worried that plans for the site were apparently being made behind closed doors.
However, Waveney has dismissed the fears, saying there were no plans to redevelop the site and progress would only be made with the express support of Southwold Town Council.
Mr Langston said: “I’m very concerned about the whole thing but what I’m particularly concerned about isn’t so much that Waveney District Council has this report but the lack of consultation. I’m the chairman of the caravan owners’ association and I’m recognised by Waveney as representing the majority of owners. They are supposed to consult on things like this but they did it in secret.”
The Southwold and Reydon Society has also expressed concerns. Its spokesman, John Perkins, said: “We’ve discussed the plan as it has been circulated all round Southwold.
“We are slightly disappointed that it has only come out as a result of a Freedom of Information request, which always suggests there is something more to it. “We’d like Waveney District Council to make public what their proposals are and to agree to consult with the town council and interested parties, such as ourselves and the caravan owners, before any decision is made.”
The 2020 Vision report, which was presented to Waveney, describes the potential to develop and improve the site and lists a number of steps that should be taken to upgrade it.
These include improving touring facilities, creating a buoyant holiday letting market and ensuring the site becomes a self-sufficient and sustainable financial operation.
The second report, Defend They Ryght, was presented to Southwold Town Council. It includes all the information in the first report and also outlines some of the problems facing the site.
Paul Spriggins, director of Tingdene Parks, prepared the two reports.
He said the company already worked with Waveney at North Denes and offered to look at Southwold with a view to securing future business and bringing it up to scratch.
He said the site did not meet regulations and his proposals included improvements such as upgrading facilities and providing more space between pitches to meet national guidelines.
Mr Spriggins said: “I was the author and we did the presentations of our findings and that is it.
“They (Waveney) have asked questions and we have given them answers.
“We said if they ever get to the point of taking it forward, we would be interested in doing it.”
A Waveney spokesman said: “No decisions have been taken regarding Southwold caravan site and nothing will happen without the full co-operation and agreement of Southwold Town council. A working group set up to consider the future of Southwold facilities, consisting of representatives from both councils, is well established and is aware of the current situation.
“Tingdene, with whom we enjoy a relationship at the North Denes site in Lowestoft, suggested a fact-finding exercise which would consider both current issues and future potential of the Southwold caravan and camping site. We agreed to their suggestion and, following their assessment, they prepared a report which they subsequently presented to the council and then, at a later date, to the working group.
“We all share the same desire to ensure visitors can enjoy a 21st century camping experience while also ensuring that it respects the heritage, culture and environment of its location. However, at this stage, the fact-finding exercise has proceeded no further.”
Southwold mayor Simon Tobin, who is a member of the town council’s harbour working group, said members had been assured by Waveney that no decisions on the site would be made with without their agreement.