The owners of some idyllic chalets have vowed to continue their fight for more rights over their homes after a top judge ruled they are “mere licensees” of the properties.
A group of residents paid tens of thousands of pounds for their homes in Larbreck Gardens, Garstang Road, Little Eccleston, and have spent thousands more on improving them.
But many of the chalet owners did not ask for solicitors’ advice when they bought their homes, which are situated on a holiday park.
Angry about having to pay site fees of £1,800 a year to David Kirkham, one of the legal owners of the land, 11 of the chalet owners took him to court – claiming to own not just the buildings, but the soil underneath them.
They claimed to own the freehold of their chalet plots, or at least long leaseholds, but their arguments were thrown out last year by Judge Denyer who dismissed their pleas.
The judge ruled Mr Kirkham and two other owners of the land were entitled to charge site fees and dictate that the chalet owners must vacate them for six winter weeks each year.
On appeal, the chalet dwellers’ barrister, Rawden Crozier, argued that, as permanent structures, the chalets were ‘annexed’ to the land and their occupants owned both the buildings and the plots on which they stood.
He said one of the chalet owners had paid £43,000 for his home and insisted the chalets should be viewed as ‘fixtures’ of the land, rather than merely ‘chattels’.
However, Lord Justice McCombe, sitting at the Court of Appeal, was unimpressed and ruled that, in the absence of rent records or any other evidence that they had ‘title’ to the land, the chalet owners’ arguments were hopeless and their appeal could not possibly succeed.
The judge emphasised his ruling that the chalet owners are “mere licensees” does not mean they have no rights.
However, he said they will be in a substantially weaker position than they would have been had they proved a freehold or leasehold interest in the land.
But after three court cases and three defeats the neighbours are adamant they should carry on fighting to secure the same rights of a homeowner.
Currently, the residents must move off the site for six weeks every year when the caravan park closes.
The residents believe this would not have to happen if they negotiated a lease, which would give them more control over their living arrangements.
Resident Barbara Wroe, 73, said: “We want the security of tenure but also the right to live here like anyone else would have the right to live in their own homes.
“We wouldn’t be thrown off here for six weeks of the year if we had a lease.”
Alan Hawcroft, 61, who bought his property in 2005, said: “I’m paying Band A council tax.
“We want to be able to live in our homes with a nice peaceful existence and get on with our lives.
“This isn’t finished. We are going to have a meeting among ourselves.”
But Mr Kirkham said: “When they came on to the site they knew they had to vacate for six weeks and they have as much right as anyone else.
“They are trying to change the rules, not me, and if they’re not happy they can sell the chalet.
“The chalets are situated on a holiday park.
“They knew full well that was the score and they have to abide by the holiday park rules and vacate for six weeks.
“The £1,800 covers the rate for them to occupy the site for 10 and a half months and make use of the facilities.
“They are supplied with water, sewage and site maintenance.
“All they have to do is look after their own building.”