Last week I was invited to visit Springfield Park, a static mobile home park close to the centre of Hinckley, where I met local resident and campaigner Janet Deeming, as well as the indefatigable Phil Johnson – who also campaigns for a throat cancer charity, and manages to make a great deal of noise despite needing to use an external device to communicate, giving him a voice which he compares to a Dalek. I am with them in the picture above, outside Janet’s home in SpringfieldPark.
The term “Static Mobile Home Park” doesn’t always conjure up a very positive image, but Springfield Park challenges stereotypes. It’s a mature estate, at least thirty years old, with well-kept lawns, mature trees and ponds. The residents, though mostly elderly, clearly take a huge pride in their homes and gardens.
The land belonged to a local farmer, Mr. Andrews, who in turn leased it to an investor on a long lease. This lease is due to expire early next year, giving the residents only another six months. When they moved in, there had been talk of the lease being rolled over indefinitely, but unfortunately there is nothing to confirm that in the legal documents.
The investor has given notice that he does no wish to renew the lease. The land, meanwhile, has passed on to the three daughters of Farmer Andrews, and they now — quite reasonably — are apparently looking to realise the value of the site, which will command a high price as building land.
There are around 50 homes, and 60+ residents, and they are naturally very concerned indeed that they will lose the homes that (in some cases) they have occupied for decades, and in which many had hoped to end their days. If the lease simply ends and the land is sold, the homes will have little or no residual value. Many of the residents will not be in a position to buy elsewhere, and most could end up asking the local authority to re-house them. Some of the older residents are said to be very distressed and anxious at the prospect.
Against this background, it is hardly surprising that a Save Our Park campaign has been launched, with Mrs. Deeming at the forefront. They have a short YouTube video. There is a petition on the web-site which you may wish to support. I must be very careful what I say about the legal position, as I am not legally qualified, but I think it is fair to say that the campaign group understands that it has no legal basis to challenge the sale of the land. On the other hand it makes a compelling case on two grounds: first, that these long-term and elderly residents should not be cast out on the street, whatever the legal niceties; and second, that the obligation on the local council to re-house these people could prove more expensive than (say) having the council buy the land and continue to operate it and to profit from the ground rents.
I have made some enquiries and spoken to the local council, which is well appraised of the situation and (to be fair) seems to be making great efforts to find an amicable outcome. I understand that negotiations are taking place between the parties (Council and land-owners), and that possible solution is under discussion, but it is for the parties to announce any proposal in due course.
Meantime, the residents of Springfield Park continue to worry, and the months to the end of the lease keep slipping by. I would urge those involved to come forward with generous and compassionate proposals as soon as possible — and especially before Christmas. It will not be a very festive season for the residents of SpringfieldPark if their future is not resolved by December.