Political storm erupts over the future of under-threat caravan park in Sutton
The future of an under-threat caravan park in Sutton has provoked a fresh war of words between politicians in Ashfield.
Concerns have been raised about the future of the Ashfield Mobile Home Park in Sutton after it emerged its new owners had told residents they intended to close it – and gave them a deadline of August to find an alternative base.
The new owners, ATE Farms, took over the site last year before announcing it required too much work to refurbish it to bring it up to standard.
Skegby independent Councillor Melanie Darrington had been working with residents and said a meeting had taken place with senior officials at Ashfield District Council in a bid to resolve matters.
Meanwhile, Ashfield’s Conservative MP Lee Anderson had called on the authority to buy the site – which could be worth as much as £1.5m.
Now council leader Coun Jason Zadrozny has joined the row and says Coun Darrington has circulated false rumours that the site was owned by travellers and could be turned into a traveller site.
He has also asked Mr Anderson to reveal which services he would like cutting for the council to be able to afford to buy the site.
“Our councillors have been liaising with both residents on the Ashfield Mobile Homes site and people living near it,” he said. “As a council, we have offered residents our full support. The valuation of the site veers wildly from hundreds of thousands right up to £1.5million.
“Government rules mean that the council couldn’t borrow to purchase the site – the MP knows this of course.
“If the council were to purchase the site – that would be nearly 10 per cent of our entire budget. Maybe if the MP wants to pursue this idea, he could provide us with a list of services he wishes to cut.
“I must point out however, that the current owner of the site is not a traveller nor has he declared any intention to sell to any travellers.
“It is a shame that the worrying situation faced by residents is being used as a political football. Melanie Darrington put a misleading post on Facebook which claimed that the current owner of the site is a traveller. He is not.
“She further claimed that he intended to sell the land to travellers - he is not.”
Speaking in response to Coun Zadrozny’s comments, Coun Darrington, who also works as Mr Anderson’s office manager, said: “Worried residents from the area contacted me after a councillor from another area of Sutton told the tenants to immediately move as there was nothing the council could do.
“This isn’t my way of doing things – I will always try and help people.
“Some of these residents have lived on this site for many years – this is their home and it is heartbreaking for them that they may have to leave. These residents are my priority.
“Everything I have said has either been told me by residents or the council.
“There is a concern in the community that if the residents are forced to move on, travellers will set up there, this has happened in other areas.
“I will do what I can to keep the residents in their homes and am saddened to hear that other councillors choose to play party politics instead.
“Statements have gone out by the Ashfield Independents saying the site is worth £1.5m and will have bungalows built on it.
“Ashfield District Council dispute this. I think we need to pull together and work as one to help these residents.
“Spreading mistruths helps nobody and is unnecessary.”
Meanwhile, Mr Anderson responded and says he ‘won’t get into a fight with the council leader’.
“My priority is the residents who are at their wits end for their long-term future,” he said.
“I have requested that Ashfield District Council look into purchasing the site. This would mean the residents can stay in their homes and it would be a good income for the council.
“Ashfield District Council had an under-spend of £2.6 million last year, so there’s plenty of money in the budget to buy this asset, which sold for £250,000 last year.
“If the council can buy hotels, flats and shops in other areas of the country, they can at least do their best to buy this site for their own residents.”
The owners had previously stated in a letter sent to residents that they had until August 1 to vacate the site and remove their belongings, it has been reported.
It is unclear at this stage what plans the owners have for the site, located on Ashfield Street.
Speaking on behalf of the council, Coun Helen-Ann Smith, deputy leader, said “Ashfield District Council is supporting the residents of Ashfield Mobile Home Park, and has written to them this week to offer further support and advice.
"Council officers have been in conversation with the site owner and the solicitors working on behalf of park residents, and will continue to engage and assist those agencies who are supporting the residents.
“We are aware of speculation surrounding the sale of the site, and I can confirm that no planning application has been submitted for the site. I want to assure residents of the caravan park and the surrounding area that we will continue to work closely with all parties involved and offer support to those directly affected.”