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Those left in Lossiemouth caravan park say it’s now a ‘scrapyard’ and ‘bombsite’ after exodus under new management

Robert Haytack sits on one of the many empty plots at Lossiemouth Bay Caravan Park. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson
Robert Haytack sits on one of the many empty plots at Lossiemouth Bay Caravan Park. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson

The “happy”, “jolly” Lossiemouth Bay Caravan Park of the beginning of the year feels like a distant memory when compared to the “bombsite” and “scrapyard” it has become, say residents.

While the number of static caravan owners goes down, the owners left say the only thing going up is the fees.

The park was owned by local Christies Parks until June, when it was bought over by national chain Park Holidays UK as part of a £9 million deal.

Since then, those who own static caravans have been subjected to a wide range of new rules and regulations, including how long people are allowed to stay at the park.

Many have left their lives at the park behind, either by choice based on the new management or by the force of what caravan owners have called Park Holidays UK’s “upgrade or get off” attitude. 

December brought a new wave of problems to the park, including owners having no water and roads reportedly not being gritted.

A few are still clinging on to the park despite the empty plots, ongoing issues and new rules that drove others out.

We found out why.

Health worker’s ‘happy place’

Shirley Sutherland bought a caravan at “happy” and “friendly” Lossiemouth Bay Caravan Park three years ago.

She says Park Holidays UK have already asked if she wants to upgrade her 2021 model.

The 56-year-old bought her caravan after her mum died, officially making it “Shirley’s Happy Place” with a sign on the door.

“I work for the NHS so my four days off I’m usually there, it’s my chillout,” she said.

“I’m so well known at home I couldn’t handle people giving me their condolences everywhere I went, so I bought the caravan and I love it.”

This site used to be full of caravans. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson

Letters regarding fees for next year have started trickling out to owners, who will now be expected to pay for water, internet and plot reservation on top of the regular site fees these payments were previously included in.

Ms Sutherland said: “I don’t know how they can justify charging the fees they’re charging us, there isn’t even reception half the time.”

Treasuring the safe haven the caravan offers her, Ms Sutherland is determined not to let new management make her leave the park despite it now resembling a “scrapyard”.

She said: “I’ll dig my heels in, I really do not want to give up my caravan, it was my happy place and still is when I get in behind the door and I don’t see the rest of it.”

‘If we sold, we’d get nothing for it’

Earlier this year, some owners were forced to move their caravans from a section of the park for proposed redevelopment – which has not yet happened.

One among them bought a caravan at the park with her husband eight years ago and has accused new management of using “bully tactics” with owners.

Most of her friends have left the park and the atmosphere has changed drastically. She said: “The place used to be so happy and now when you go down there’s just a horrible heavy cloud above it. You don’t know what static is going to be forced off next.”

Things left behind by owners who are already gone. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson

The owner is also concerned about the conditions at Lossiemouth Bay Caravan Park, alleging: “The place is like a bombsite, it’s such a health and safety hazard. There’s wood, nails, everything lying about, loose electrical cables, the place is a mess.”

She added she would hate to lose her caravan, and that the current climate would make a move costly even if they did make that decision: “It’s so difficult to sell a static because no one has money and no one has money to upgrade either.

“It’s our little getaway, if we were to sell it we’d get nothing for it, so that’s why we’re trying to stick this out.”

Vandalism concerns

“It’s like a building site in reverse, instead of anything going up everything is being taken down,” said Gordon MacCrae, who lives in a lodge at the caravan park.

Mr MacCrae feels confident remaining at the park because he is not at risk of being moved, but that hasn’t stopped him from being affected by change.

“There are probably about 30 people who have left already and there are people leaving every week,” he said.

Gordon MacCrae outside his lodge at the park. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson

“In one day there can be five caravans taken off site, there are another seven now ready to go.”

He is concerned about the way the park is being run including the lack of security which he claims has already led to instances of vandalism.

The recent icy spell left roads “treacherous” in his words, and elderly residents “stuck” in their caravans.

As for the atmosphere, Mr MacCrae branded it “absolutely hellish”.

Bullying accusations

Despite living in North Yorkshire, one owner chose to buy a caravan in Lossiemouth as the perfect getaway.

Retiring earlier this year, he had intended on making the trip north more often but is being put off.

“I bought it for a relaxing retirement place and I’m not happy with it,” he said.

He added: “They’re imposing all these different regulations and putting all these rules on us, as far as I’m concerned I was here before they were.”

Despite spending £4,500 on new wooden decking around three years ago, he claims he has been asked to rip it up and replace it with the preferred plastic.

One owner described the site as a “scrapyard”. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson

During a visit in December, he said he was unable to shower and was brushing his teeth with bottled water due to there being no water at the park.

He said it’s hard to get help when issues do arise: “They only open the office twice a week, when Christie was here you could just walk in, talk to them and have your problems sorted.”

While some are being forced to leave the park, this owner also feels forced to stay as he has been told Park Holidays will take 18% commission if he sells his caravan.

“It’s bullying as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

‘We will stand up for our rights’

Linda Cameron heads a group of remaining residents who are fighting to return the “half-empty” park to its former glory and standing up for those being asked to leave.

“We will stand up for what we believe in and for our rights,” said Ms Cameron soon after Park Holidays UK took over.

“We will take this as far as we can, we are not going to let a big American company come in and ruin people’s quiet lives.”

Linda Cameron with Douglas Ross at the park in August 2022. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson

Following a visit from Moray MP Douglas Ross earlier this year, manager of Park Holidays’ Moray parks, James Ellison, said he was committed to setting up a twice-weekly clinic at the park so people could go to him directly with their opinions.

Ms Cameron said this promise hasn’t been upheld: “It kind of happened, was it always with him? No. Could we get any information? No.

“I went in and asked about the people who were told they were being moved for redevelopment, but I was told to check the Moray Council website. I did, there was nothing there.

“After emailing the park manager seven times about it, I finally got a reply to say he couldn’t tell me anything.”

‘All our friends have upped sticks’

Owners at the park were previously under the impression they could keep renewing their licenses each year for as long as they wanted to, but they say Park Holidays UK has now called time at 10 years.

Anyone with a caravan older than this was given until March 2023 to leave, but many are already gone.

Robert Haytack lived most of the year at Lossiemouth Bay Caravan Park with his wife Angela for eight years.

They packed up and left late this year after being told they would need to upgrade their caravan or leave. He claims the upgrade Park Holidays tried to sell him was older than the model he had.

Robert Haytack and his wife have been forced to leave the park. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson

“We couldn’t afford to lose any more,” he said.

“They’ll quite happily sell me an older caravan but I can’t stay in my own. It’s all about robbing people of their money.”

Mr Haytack said the “astronomical” cost they were being asked to pay left them with no choice but to sell their caravan and move, leaving the couple “heartbroken”.

“It feels awful, all our friends have upped sticks and gone because it was ‘upgrade or get out’ so there’s hardly anyone left now,” he added.

“The atmosphere of a jolly campsite is gone, it has just become anxiety and worrying about what was going to happen next.”

Park Holidays UK response

In response to concerns raised by owners regarding the recent water outage, a spokesman for Park Holidays UK said: “Holiday home owners at Lossiemouth are now reconnected to the mains water supply following a temporary outage caused by a frozen pump.

“When the problem became apparent, we acted swiftly to arrange a repair via a specialist contractor and ensured that owners were supplied with fresh potable water in the interim.

The park back in August 2022, many have left since. Image: Jason Hedges / DC Thomson

In response to concerns raised by owners regarding a lack of gritting, a spokesman for Park Holidays UK said: “Roads and pathways at the park were regularly gritted during the recent cold spell. The prolonged freezing temperatures, however, meant that surfaces could not be guaranteed free of ice for sustained periods of time.

In response to the redevelopment of the park, he added: “Park Holidays UK is continuing its investment programme at Lossiemouth Holiday Park to ensure that we are providing the highest possible quality standards and facilities for guests.

“This is involving a measure of development and landscaping work, but has been scheduled to ensure the minimum of disturbance for holiday home owners during their visits to the park.”

In response to the lack of regular meetings as promised, he added: “Owners have received regular communications from the park regarding our willingness to discuss any matters they wish to raise, and we will be messaging them again in the New Year to advise on additional opportunities to meet with our management team.”