Distraught residents on a park home site owned by Alfie Best, the so-called Gipsy King, face having their properties demolished.
The homes were built without planning permission and a planning inspector has just upheld a council enforcement order to have them removed.
One frantic resident on the Lakeview Park site on the London-Essex border is Ann Hughes, who paid £120,000 for the home she shares with husband Roger, who has dementia.
“Where are we going to go?” she asked. “What’s going to happen?”
The site is in the greenbelt and run by Wyldecrest Homes, part of Alfie Best’s company Best Holdings (UK) Limited.
He insists that all the homes at Lakeview have planning permission and has claimed that local Havering council’s motivation is “because I’m gipsy”.
The council’s response is that a new road and homes have been built outside the permitted development area.
Leader of Havering Council, Conservative Damian White, said Wyldecrest “flagrantly flouted planning laws by extending their current site onto greenbelt land, then selling mobile homes without planning permission or without thought to the welfare of residents investing their hard earned money."
He went on: “We can’t sit back and let rogue businesses encroach on our greenbelt.
“The Council will always do everything in its power to protect Havering’s environment so the borough stays a special place for everyone to enjoy.”
He said the council would offer housing advice to the affected residents, but urged Wyldecrest to “do the right thing” by helping its residents.
Keith Darvill, Leader of Havering’s Labour Group, called the planning inspector’s ruling in the council’s favour “entirely predictable”.
“Wyldecrest has been irresponsible and has misrepresented the position to those residents who purchased park homes which were placed on land that did not have planning permission,” he said.
“Those residents have been living for more than a year now in deplorable conditions and now face being forced off the land despite being assured by Wyldecrest that they could purchase these homes without the need to get legal advice.
“Wyldecrest must now assure residents that they will not suffer financial loss, and provide compensation for the inconvenience they have endured.”
He described some of the affected residents as vulnerable and needing support from Wyldecrest to relocate, adding: “Failure to take responsibility for this terrible situation will be a corporate disgrace.”
Alfie Best is worth an estimated £250million and the latest accounts for Best Holdings show a pre-tax profit of £23.5million, so there shouldn’t be any difficulty compensating residents who unwittingly bought the blighted properties.
Will this happen? David Sunderland, estates director of Wyldecrest Parks, did not directly answer the question, instead vowing to fight the planning inspector’s ruling.
“Despite this decision, both our residents and ourselves maintain that we have not breached planning controls and will be working with our legal team and the local council to lodge a further appeal as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“The welfare of Wyldecrest’s residents is and remains our number one priority.”
The planning inspector’s report says that at the time of her visit 20 concrete bases for homes had been laid and eight homes completed on an area outside the park section “that benefits from planning permission for the siting of residential caravans”.
She added that although there was no fence or hedge between the two parts of the site, “there was a clear demarcation line between the appeal site and the rest of the park until at least 2016”.
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