News And Other Busyness
Holtsfield Chalets Shall Stay
After a long-fought battle with a property developer, residents of Holtsfield, a small community in South Wales, have won the right to stay. Andy Johnson reports.
Squall 16, Summer 1998, pg. 9.
RESIDENTS of a low impact chalet community in Swansea have won their nine year battle to remain in their homes.
A property speculator who brought the land on which the chalet's stood and then tried to evict them is now facing bankruptcy with debts approaching £600,000.
Seventeen residents of Holtsfield, in the Gower Peninsula, were ruled to have protection under the 1977 rent act by Swansea County Court. Because they had moved in before 1989, the year of sale, their agreement with the previous owner was judged to be a secure tenancy, inherited by the new owner. Seven tenants who moved in after 1989 do not have the same protection but are unlikely to be evicted.
The case follows a House of Lords ruling last year that the chalets belonged to the land on which they stood. Developer Tim Jones, a solicitor heading property company Elitestone, had brought the land for £175,000 in 1989 with plans to build luxury housing. He argued the residents did not own the land on which their chalets stood and sought to evict them. But five law lords ruled otherwise last May, a judgement which meant the residents became the tenants of Mr Jones.
The new ruling, based on the assumption the residents had entered into an agreement with the previous owner, means Mr Jones cannot evict them. "The tenants don't own the land or the chalets, but have a right to live in them," resident Isobel Griffin told SQUALL. "It's brilliant news. It'll be time to party when everybody who wants to stay here can stay."
Seven residents, including Ms Griffin who moved in two years ago, can be evicted because their tenancies come after Mr Jones bought the land. But eviction would serve no useful purpose other than spite, Ms Griffin said.
Mr Jones is now facing a £100,000 legal bill and is thought to be £600,000 in debt to Barclays Bank. Any hope he would be owed thousands in back rent by the residents were dashed by Swansea County Court who ruled monies owed to be one pound a year. Future rents will be set by a fair rent officer.
"He has 17 families in protected tenancies and seven families saying can we rent from you? He's not responded to that," Ms Griffin said. Nor has he acted to evict, which he was legally able to do since April 6.
Holtsfield was declared a conservation area in 1990. The wooden homes do not impact on the environment, there are no street lights, roads or cars. At least one resident has lived there since they were built, originally as holiday homes, in the 1980s. Jones had previously evicted one chalet and two residents left of their own accord. "We were all weeping," Ms Griffin said of the verdict. "We were overwhelmed. It was unbelievable."
Holtsfield - A Community Under Threat - A small south Wales community faces eviction from developers Paul O’Connor and Mel Gunasena report. Squall 11, August 1995.
Lords Back Holtsfield - residents win but developer becomes landlord. Squall 15, Summer 1997.
Kingshill Collective Safe For Present - decision overturned on technicality. Squall 15, Summer 1997.