Blue Sky Thinking: Alicia Dunne of the NCC forecasts blue sky prospects for the park home sector…
As the UK faces up to an ever-aging population, the park home sector is in an increasingly strong position, believes Alicia Dunne, Deputy Director General of the National Caravan Council. Alicia says improvements to the quality of the accommodation and the broad product offering will continue to make park home living an attractive housing option. “The sector is boosted by technical advantages in construction methods and by its greener credentials and improved energy efficiency provisions,” says Alicia. “With the changing demographics in the UK, demand for this type of flexible and affordable accommodation is likely to increase. With this in mind, changes to planning laws would help the industry to fulfil its potential, and play its full part in solving the country’s current housing shortage.”
The NCC is the trade body for the entire UK ‘caravan’ and recreational vehicle industry, encompassing touring caravans, motorhomes, caravan holiday homes and residential park homes. As such, the NCC’s work in the residential park sector – in the housing footprint - is different from the work it does in the leisure sector. The NCC is committed to promoting the interests of its members in the park home sector – from the manufacturer right through to the park operators.
Says Alicia: “We try to ensure that every park home-related business has a voice – and we have a direct dialogue with our members through our Park Home Strategic Panel and the relevant technical panel.”
Alicia joined the NCC in January 2000 as Policy Advisor before becoming Deputy Director General. Her chief responsibilities are public affairs including representation with government; negotiation with regulatory bodies and advising on impact of new or proposed legislation; policy development; committee administration (NPHC, Parks Section and Caravan Holiday Home Distributors); advice to members on regulatory matters and operation of the NCC conciliation and complaints handling service.
Says Alicia: “The park home sector has made a strong start to 2016, with the number of park homes dispatched by manufacturers up by around 14 per cent on last year.
“This sector follows closely the fluctuations in the residential housing market and the related upturn reflects positively on the demand for this popular form of housing lifestyle.” The park home sector has seen significant regulatory change in recent years and the NCC has maintained a close relationship for over 20 years with Government (Westminster and devolved administrations) and other regulatory bodies to ensure that dialogue is maintained, change is relevant and proportionate, and park members’ views are represented.
As Alicia explains: “One recent example was that the NCC engaged with a Minister-led working group in Westminster that is looking at the impact of the Mobile Homes Act (2013) in England ahead of a formal review of the legislation in 2017.” “Over the last few years, there has been primary park home legislation passed in all the constituent parts of the UK and publication of a new construction standard for residential park homes has been issued by the British Standards Institute (BS3632:2015).
One of the main successes of the NCC, in recent years, has been helping to shape the legislation across the UK and ensuring that park members are equipped with the tools they need to maintain compliance. The NCC also helped secure the publication of a new build standard - BS3632:2015 -which raises the bar significantly, especially in relation to increased levels of insulation and in ventilation. The influential body also assisted in the introduction of an Energy Efficiency Rating Scheme for park homes to give consumers an informed choice of product. It is now a mandatory element of product approval.
“The NCC has helped to both shape the legislation and give unique technical advice to the BSI. We provide members with the tools to ensure that they are compliant and can build to the highest standard approved for the sector,” says Alicia
“Our park members have had to embrace many changes to the ways in which they operate their businesses in recent years,” Alicia reflects. “There is a danger that if the regulatory burden continues to increase apace, many of the reputable operators might simply decide to sell up and leave the industry. “Another key challenge relates to the acquisition of planning consents - the overwhelming number of local authorities do not take park home developments into account as part of their planning policy/local development plans,” continues Alicia. “It is important that any definition of affordable housing is amended to explicitly recognise the unique housing contribution and planning circumstances of park homes, in order to deliver land for park development."
National Caravan Council Limited
Tel. 01252 318251