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Request for West Norfolk caravan parks to be opened earlier as letter sent to government

A West Norfolk caravan park businessman is backing a national initiative asking the government to reopen owner occupied parks from the beginning of June.

Mike McDonnell, who owns seven caravan parks including McDonnell Caravans and 4Shores in Hunstanton, said the British Holiday and Home Parks Association (BH&HPA) argument is based on the fact that certain types of accommodation satisfy social distancing criteria and should be deemed safe to reopen.

Ros Pritchard, director-general of the BH&HPA has written to Boris Johnson on behalf of members across the nation questioning why parks are unable to reopen until at least July.

Mike McDonnell
Mike McDonnell

And Mr McDonnell supports the argument that accommodation should not be grouped into one category.

He explained: "Owner occupied caravans have their own catering areas, there are not always communal caf├ęs or swimming pools. Our parks have social distances between the caravans of five to six metres.

"The caravans are self-contained and there are no communal shower and toilet facilities unless there are touring caravans where the park owner is obliged to provide communal facilities."

Mr McDonnell said he has reverted back to being fully staffed at Gayton, where McDonnell Caravans is based, this week. This includes his secretary and administrative staff, as well as technicians, engineers, and ground crews for cutting hedges and general maintenance.

He added that the safety of his customers and staff is paramount, but said most parks want to reopen and "get on with business".

Mr McDonnell also believes the government's address to the nation on May 10 has been "misleading" people in terms of travel.

He gave the example of one customers who contacted him saying she intended to travel to Snettisham from Peterborough to exercise on the beach then clean her caravan.

Mr McDonnell said: "People are not allowed to go to these places for any purposes unless they contact the owner first and this includes beach huts on the promenade at Hunstanton as well. It was very simple until the guidelines changed recently to 'stay at home but don't stay at home'. It's misleading people as to what they can and can't do."

The owner of seven parks between Snettisham and Brancaster said he did not anticipate the closure in the middle of March, but he has been in regular contact with North West Norfolk MP James Wild during the pandemic.

On the future of his businesses, Mr McDonnell added: "There is no question that most of the parks in this area which have been owned for many years are not at risk of going out of business. They are supported by the rental income as well as sales. I think everyone wants to get back to business whether you are a pizza shop, a hairdresser or a caravan park owner."

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