Traditional family escape comes to an end at St Leonards
FOR generations families have been holidaying at a St Leonards caravan park but for many that is about to come to an end with long-term annuals told to make way for developers.
Between 85 to 100 families are believed to have been informed that their lease will not be renewed this year making this summer their last.
Sharon Headley is amongst the permanent annuals unsure of what to do next.
“We are devastated, absolutely devastated,” she said.
“Everyone is worried about what they are going to do and where they are going to go.”
Two years ago, Holiday Lifestyle purchased the St Leonards Caravan Park with plans to develop the area into an “affordable accommodation village” however regular holidaymakers are saying they were not properly informed.
Ms Headley who has been at the park for seven years said developers originally told her works would only take place at the front and back of the park, meaning her caravan would not be affected.
“This will uproot a lot of people, we have a sense of community here and we have known each other for years,” she said.
“It will be heartbreaking because we won’t ever have that social aspect again.”
Carolyn Armstrong was also amongst those left confused by the news after she purchased her permanent caravan site in October and just a month later was informed that all annual leases will be terminated in 2021.
With COVID-19 restrictions preventing families from attending their permanent sites, many were not able to return until late September and by the end of November they were informed their lease would not be renewed.
Holiday Lifestyle has proposed that 63 sites will be available to build on as well as a brand-new recreational area, modern camp kitchen and swimming pool to be included.
Buyers can choose from three building designs starting from $395,000 which pays for the lease of land and house for 250 years separate to bills and annual fees.
“The people here at this park and most caravan parks are families who can’t afford to buy holiday houses or a luxury holiday,” she said.
“This is their little piece of paradise and it is absolutely brilliant down here.”
The annual price to place a caravan at the park is $5500 while the cheapest house lease is just under $400,000.
“They’re going to make a lot of money here and they don’t care about the little people,” Ms Headley said.
“Things need to evolve and move on, but they need to give people like us the opportunity to stay here and embrace the community and the comradery that we have all made together.”
In 2016, similar developments were proposed by Holiday Lifestyle in Werribee South which saw the transformation of a standard caravan park to a boutique village of moveable homes.
Lauren Clarke of Holiday Lifestyle said it was an investment for anyone looking to live or rent out their very own beach house by the water.
“Since December 26 we have had 41 online inquiries and about the same in physical appointments,” she said.
“We have already sold 20 houses in presales.”
Ms Clarke said permanent caravan holders were offered access to the lots before the public while others received an extension on their current lease so that they could stay for the holiday period.
Holiday Lifestyle’s intention on purchase was to create a village of affordable beach houses but Ms Clarke admitted with COVID-19 they decided works needed to commence “sooner rather than later”.
“With COVID-19 shared amenities were no longer ideal,” she said.
“Annuals were becoming concerned that the amenities were not being cleaned enough and had expressed concerns over the facilities.”
The new developments will be designed for people looking for a permanent holiday destination or wanting to downsize their home.
For many people, Ms Clarke believes this will be the most affordable option for them to obtain a place so close to the beach.
“Holiday Lifestyle often appeals to retirees who don’t want to go into aged care because they have too much living still left to do,” she said.
“St Leonards is the perfect place for this.”