People who live on caravan sites in Northumberland could be forced out for longer periods as councillors examine possible breaches of planning permission.
At present, some holiday parks must close one month a year to prevent permanent occupation. People who count them as home move out for that month.
Now the county’s north planning committee is calling for scrutiny of the practice.
The issue was raised as members granted permission for Coquet View Caravan Park at Warkworth to open 12 months a year instead of 11.
They heard that only older sites, granted consent in the 1970s, were restricted as tourism was now a year-round business. But Coun Trevor Thorne described the trend as a slippery slope, making it difficult to enforce the ban on permanent occupation.
“I have one of these caravan parks in my patch, which was a holiday park and is no longer – it’s permanent residents,” he said. “There’s this second village in Swarland. Percy Wood caravan park is occupied by people full time.”
There is no suggestion Percy Wood fails to close its accommodation for a month. The Gazette has invited the company to comment.
Objectors to the Warkworth application said there was near-permanent occupation on the site, which has its own beach.
Andrew Webber, representing four objectors, said: “People are occupying caravans for 11 months now.” He suggested year-round opening would encourage that and change the character of Warkworth.
Others were worried about impact on the coastal site of special scientific interest, but Coquet View representative Rachel Whaley said the owners worked with conservationists to protect the area.
She said customers unable to use their holiday home in February were likely to buy elsewhere. Half-term fell in that month. Occupancy was easily monitored using the register kept on site.
Coun Robert Arckless said this raised important issues. For instance, Amble’s caravan site established by the local council in 1964 was important to the local economy.
He suggested referring the wider issue of residency to a scrutiny committee. After the application had been determined, committee chairman Coun John Taylor said he would do that.
North planning manager Peter Rutherford said the council looked at registers regularly. “If there is any breach, that is something we should look at.”