Vernon Dene caravan site at North Ripley has certificate of lawfulness revoked by the New Forest National Park Authority.
A controversial £10m New Forest caravan park development has had its certificate of lawfulness revoked by the national park authority.
As reported by the A&T, unfinished Vernon Dene at North Ripley – between Bransgore and Ringwood – has been at the centre of a planning row for years.
In 2008 the site was granted the certificate after then-owner Jonathan Cox submitted evidence to show the sites use as a caravan site had been established for over 10 years.
However, NPA members heard subsequent testimonies from neighbours and aerial photos had shown the 2008 application was likely to be based on false and inaccurate information.
The question of whether to revoke the certificate of lawfulness was debated at length during a full national park authority meeting, where the NPA head of strategy and planning Steve Avery warned authority members that any decision was likely to lead to a legal challenge.
Mr Avery added: “Whilst the certificate remains in place you cannot really argue against the principal of this site being used as a permanent mobile home park.”
The certificate of lawfulness granted in 2008 places no restriction on the number of mobile homes. At the time, the site accommodated “a few modest sized touring caravans”.
However in late 2018, the site was acquired by Park One Developments for £2.6m, with the firm revealing its intention to create a substantial residential mobile home park.
NPA members were told the change of ownership came to light following the Easter weekend 2019, when “without any prior warning” heavy plant and machinery were used to carry out extensive site clearance and engineering works.
“Felled trees and vegetation were burnt on site with security guards stationed at the site entrance,” revealed the NPA documents.
Within weeks, new site owners Park One Developments applied to New Forest District Council for a site licence for 83 permanent residential caravans/mobile homes which, due to the existing certificate of lawfulness, was subsequently granted.
It began work on the site to install concrete bases for the park homes as well as internal roads and infrastructure, but the NPA then warned the developers that planning permission for this work could be needed because of its proximity to protected habitats.
It then emerged that the site had changed ownership again in December 2021, when Ocean One Hundred Ltd bought it for £10m. The NPA revealed around that time “a number of anomalies” relating to the original certificate had come to light prompting further investigation.
New information showed that Jonathan Cox was not the owner of the site in 2008 as he had claimed, but it was instead owned by his brother Geoffrey Cox. Other “anomalies” included accounts from neighbours that the caravan use was not widespread, that a significant area of the site was used for grazing, and parts were used for storage of items such as horse boxes, cars, rubble and telegraph poles.
Debating a recommendation to revoke the certificate, Mary Davies declared: “We cannot lose sight that, with any application the applicants are signing, that the statements are true and accurate statements and the facts are materially correct – this is fundamental to this case.”
Victoria Maunder pointed out that Jonathan Cox had signed the application as the land owner when he was not, adding: “There were clearly false details within this document.”
Keith Manns argued that when the certificate of lawfulness was awarded, planners could not have anticipated that instead of a “few tour caravans in a field” the law could be used to “effectively create a housing development”.
“We live in the New Forest,” said Mr Mans. “We are trying to protect the habitat, the countryside, the landscape and I am quite convinced in my own mind that the agreement was based on the common sense view of what a touring caravan site is.”
Members of the NPA also debated the revocation in private session before voting to revoke the certificate of lawfulness in a second, public part of the meeting.