Heacham caravan parks want to remain open until January to help recover Covid-19 losses
Three caravan parks in Heacham are hoping to be able to extend their season to help recover financial losses incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic.
North Beach Caravan Park, Riverside Caravan Park and Putting Green Caravan Park are currently scheduled to close for the season on Saturday, October 31.
However, Heacham Holidays which owns and runs the three parks has applied for planning permission for an extension of the operating season. The business lost three-and-a-half months' trade this year when it was unable to open until July 4.
During the summer the government urged local planning authorities to look favourably on requests by holiday parks to extend their open season.
The applications to West Norfolk Council effectively ask for the three caravan parks to be able to be temporarily used from March 6 to January 6 each year until 2022 to help mitigate lost earnings during lockdown.
An accompanying statement says: "As there would be no material increase in the number of people on holiday in the area over the two years from 7th January 2020 to 6th January 2022 and in view of the Government openly supporting season extensions during these difficult times, we hope the council will look favourably on our client’s proposals to financially recover from this forced closure period."
The applications have drawn comments from the public both in objection and support.
One objector said: "My understanding has always been that the restrictions on people residing during the winter months in properties located in the floodplain both in Heacham and in Hunstanton are there to protect life and limb in the event of flooding.
"Why, therefore, can there be justification for applications to remove these restrictions because of Covid-19? This would set a dangerous precedent and if it is deemed safe for the caravan sites to extend their operations then this relaxation also has to apply to everybody with properties along the seaboard who are currently restricted."
Another objector pointed to flooding of the sites leading to users parking on narrow nearby roads.
"Unless the site can guarantee that the users will not cause a danger to people and a nuisance to the community, then they should not be allowed to extend their season," he said.
The planning applications accept that the parks are within an area at risk of flooding, but say that due to the closure of the site during a busier time of the year, the temporary extension of the opening period during the quieter times of the year would not place people at a net greater risk of flooding over the two-year period (including the lockdown period). And they point to a full flood warning and evacuation procedure already being in place.
Meanwhile, a member of the public supporting of the applications has highlighted the potential benefit to the local economy.
He said on the council's online planning portal: "Continued siting of caravans to be allowed to be occupied on an extended season would be beneficial to local businesses including hospitality within the area."
Heacham Holidays operates four parks with a total of 396 static caravans.