One of Northern Ireland’s largest caravan parks has stunned its tenants by massively increasing its annual fees by around 30%, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
That equates to between £ 700 and £ 1,000 a year extra per caravan located at Golflink’s Holiday Homes site in Portrush – also known as Kelly’s – and many of their regular customers have said they simply cannot afford it.
Unlike other parks on the north coast, tenants claim that Golflinks did not offer their residents a discount during the pandemic, and now the exorbitant price increase is another hammer blow.
A spokesman for Golflink’s Holiday Homes told the Belfast Telegraph that they “understand and sympathize with our caravan owners’ concerns about the increase in pitching fees for 2022”.
They added: “This was not an easy decision but was taken in response to an increase in operating costs for us and our investment program in updating all our facilities.”
An angry owner who has had a caravan on site there for five years said an £ 800 increase meant their annual fee had now “jumped up to over £ 3,000” – not including a further £ 470 a year on gas , electricity and insurance.
“In 2016, my bill increased by 5%, then, next year, it increased by 6%, by 4% the year after, then 8%, and this year it is 29%, which is absolutely shocking,” they told this newspaper.
“Some caravan owners pay even more. The price increase is an insult. Other sites actually gave customers discounts; we got nothing. We took it on the chin and they refunded us with a kick in the teeth.
“Nor will they break the bill to explain the increase, even though the place was closed part of the year and the facilities were closed most of the year.”
The caravan, which asked to remain anonymous, said the majority of the owners – who were informed of the hike last week – are furious. “The caravan lacks facilities, but that has not stopped them from charging more money,” they said.
“Residents have been asking for indoor facilities for teens for at least six years. It was even promised on last year’s billing letter, but was never realized.
“We have requested security barriers as we feel vulnerable to other sites.
“We had a chippy cabin that closed four years ago; We have asked for it back to no avail.
“Skerries Holiday Park next door has a chippy, a barrier and an indoor facility for teenagers. They have all the things we asked for and we pay more than people there. ”
Dozens of people have expressed their concerns about the inability to pay the increase.
“Some people simply can’t afford it,” the caravan owner said.
‘Some have been set up for two years, others have lost their jobs. Someone goes through chemo and does not have the energy to fight it.
“Last year, a man bought a new van with his retirement money. He was fully aware that he had to pay a 4% increase every year, even though he could not cope with this outrageous increase.
“If anyone challenges the climb, the concern is that the caravan will be lifted so everyone is afraid to talk.”
The caravan owner added: “The site received an average of £ 2,500 in fees from 700 caravans, equivalent to £ 17,500,000, in 2021. What are they spending these people’s hard earned money on?”
A spokesman for Golflink’s Holiday Homes said that although the complex was “forced to close due to government restrictions, our staffing and maintenance costs remained throughout that time”.
They also said, “caravan owners got a discount on their 2021 pitch fee thanks to the relief we received on our business rates, which we passed on as a discount to our customers”.
The spokesman pointed out that “over £ 1.5 million” had been invested in the development of the Holiday Park over the last 24 months, including “a new pizza restaurant and the development of Kelly’s Village for on-site enjoyment during the season” .
In a statement to this newspaper. The spokesman said the company was facing “rising costs from infrastructure and materials to rising labor costs”.
“Plans are also underway to develop a new indoor family entertainment facility on the site, which will include an indoor bowling alley and miniature golf,” they said.
“A lot of time, effort and resources have gone into ensuring that Golflinks Holiday Park is maintained to an excellent standard for our caravan owners and their families, and we are proud to be able to stay open for 48 weeks of the year.
“Unfortunately, rising costs are an inevitable consequence of this.”
The spokesman also said that Golflinks Holiday Park will freeze pitch fees until 2025.
“We want to reassure our caravan owners that their concerns are being listened to and every effort is being made to keep on-site fees and facilities as competitive as possible,” they said.
“As such, we are committed to freezing an increase on our end in track charges until the 2025 season.”