23 January 2006

Anger as caravan site fees rocket by 65%

Belfast Telegraph

Council makes its decision in private

By Lisa Smyth
23 January 2006

Caravanners across Northern Ireland say they have been left devastated by a potential 65% increase in annual fees for the use of two Coleraine Borough Council-owned caravan sites in Portrush.

In a vote closed to the public last Thursday night, the council decided against proposals to privatise Carrick-Dhu and Juniper Hills caravan sites.

However, it is understood the council now expects users of the two sites to pay £1,727 a year - meaning many existing users will no longer be able to afford to park their caravans at the site.

A spokesman from the Juniper Hills and Carrick-Dhu campaign committee said: "We never wanted the council to lease the sites out and we were willing to pay more in fees to make that possible, but this is absolutely devastating.

"What is worse is the fact that all along the council have not consulted with us and when a group of us went along to the council meeting on Thursday night, we weren't allowed in to watch proceedings.

"A couple of hours later, councillors started coming out and most of them didn't speak but a few of them told us there would be no leasing of the sites but we weren't given any further details.

"A lot of frantic phonecalls were made to the council offices on Friday morning and we were told that our annual fees will go up from £1,044 to £1,727."

The spokesman claimed that this is despite the fact that along with Ballyreagh Golf Course, the two caravan sites, which he described as "the jewel in the crown" are the only properties in the borough that do not run at a loss.

"We are now waiting for letters to confirm these figures but this is typical that we are left in the dark," said the spokesman.

"Other council-owned properties are losing money and although we expected our fees to go up, we never thought it would be by this much and it doesn't seem fair."

It is thought the annual fees have been increased to generate up to £4m, which some councillors have claimed is required to cover the cost of upgrading the two sites.

However, this has been rejected by the caravan committee as they believe work to install concrete blocks and gas pipelines in the two sites would require less than £1m.

No-one from the council was available to comment on the matter.

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