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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 23 March, 2015

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013

Purpose of the Report

1. To apprise members of the new Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013, to amend the officer delegation and to agree the fee structure to enable the Council to implement the Act.

Recommendations

1. That the Director of Development Services and Head of Public Protection authorise Council Officers to issue, vary and revoke licences under the provisions of the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.

 

2. That the Director of Development Services and Head of Public Protection authorise Council Officers to carry out the Council's function under the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.

 

3. That fees to process Mobile Home licences, detailed in Appendix 1, are agreed.

 

4. That recommendations 1 and 2 be referred to Council for consideration and approval.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. To amend the Council's Scheme of Officer Delegation to enable the Council to issue, vary and revoke Mobile Homes Site licences under the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.

 

2. To amend the Council's Scheme of Officer Delegation to enable the Council to authorise staff to enforce the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.

 

3. To enable the service to charge an appropriate fee to recover the cost of implementing the Mobile Homes licensing service.

 

4. To allow variations to the Council's scheme of delegations.

Background

2. Across Wales, approximately 5,000 residents live in a mobile home as their permanent residence on mobile home sites.

 

3. Sites used as a permanent residence must have planning permission for such use and are currently licensed under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

 

4. In the Vale of Glamorgan, there are five such Mobile Home sites. Under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, all sites are licensed, have been regularly inspected and operate within the conditions set in their current licence.

 

5. Under the scheme of officer delegations, the Director of Development Services and Head of Public Protection have delegated power to authorise officers to issue, vary and revoke licenses under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

Relevant Issues and Options

6. On the 4th November 2013, Welsh Government passed the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.  This Act introduces a new licensing, inspection and enforcement regime for residential mobile home sites in Wales with the Local Authority as the licensing authority for the Act.

 

7. All Mobile Homes sites must be relicensed by the 1st April 2015 under the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.  The Council, on consideration of an application for a Mobile Homes licence, may issue a licence with conditions.  It may also vary and revoke licences.  Licences may be issued for up to 5 years.  Once a licence is issued, the Council must inspect the site at least once in the licensed period to ensure compliance and can issue a fixed penalty notice or a compliance notice if a condition of the licence is breached.  Site owners have a right to appeal to the Residential Property Tribunal if they disagree with conditions set against the licence or compliance notice.

 

8. When considering an application for a licence, the Council must consider if the owner or manager of the site is a fit and proper person.  The Council must also ensure that physical standards of the site are suitable for the health, safety and wellbeing of the residents and may set conditions relating to the physical conditions or management of the site.  When setting conditions, the Act requires the Council to have regard to the Model Standard.  The Model Standard sets out conditions that would normally be expected as good practice on sites and is published by Welsh Government. 

 

9. The Council is able to charge a fee for processing a licence application or an application to vary a licence.  Before fees can be charged, the Act requires the Council to prepare and publish a fees policy that must be subject to consultation.  Working with a local authority implementation group, Welsh Government has developed a toolkit to assist Councils to set a fee structure that is clear, transparent and is consistent across Wales to reduce the risk of challenge.  This toolkit has been used to identify the costs of providing the service which are detailed within Appendix 1.

 

10. In line with legal requirements, all owners of Mobile Home Sites in the Vale of Glamorgan were consulted on the proposed structure. This consultation process concluded in November 2014 and no objections to the fees were received.

 

11. The Act also enables the Council to charge for enforcement work where a Compliance Notice is served.  Where a Compliance Notice is served, the Council will charge to recover its costs for the drafting and service of the Notice.  The charge will reflect the cost of officer time and on-costs.

 

12. To lawfully enforce this new Act, the Council's Officer Delegation needs to be amended to enable the Director of Development Services and Head of Public Protection to authorise Council Officers to carry out the Council's function under the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.  These functions will include the issuing, variation and revoking of licences under the Act, inspection and enforcement of the Act and licence conditions to include the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices and Compliance Notices.

 

13. Caravan Sites that are used as holiday sites are not affected by this Act and will continue to be regulated under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

14. There will be a resource implication from the introduction of the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013. Welsh Government is not providing additional revenue to implement or enforce this Act.  The Act enables a fee to be charged to process a licence.  The Act also enables the local authority to charge for fixed penalty notices and Compliance Notices and the Court to award fines upon successful prosecution.  These sources of income will help offset the resource implications for the Local Authority.

 

15. The implementation and enforcement of the Act will be met from existing resources and, if the recommendations of this report agreed, from fees collected to process a licence. An estimate of the cost of officer time processing 5 licensing applications will be approximately £1,500 in year one.  The income generated from the Mobile Homes licence application fee will offset this cost.  The service will continue to respond to complaints and intelligence but proactive work in relation to sites will be increasingly difficult due to the need to balance resource demands.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

16. The new licensing regime will contribute to sustainability by ensuring the proper management of sites for the benefit of residents.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

17. The Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013 places a statutory duty on the Council to consider and process licences for Mobile Home Sites.  Without amendment to the Council's Officer Delegation, staff cannot be duly authorised.

Crime and Disorder Implications

18. There are no crime and disorder implications from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

19. The owners of the sites affected by changes resulting from the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013 have been contacted directly and provided with advice on the new Act and have been consulted on the proposed fee structure.

Corporate/Service Objectives

20. Corporate Outcome - Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality, suitable housing and housing advice and support.

 

21. Development Services Outcome 1 - Residents of the Vale feel safe in their communities, are healthy and have a good quality of life.

Policy Framework and Budget

22. This report is a matter for Executive and Council decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

23. This is not a ward specific issue.

 

24. The owners of the sites affected by charge resulting from the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013 have been contacted directly and consulted on the proposed fee structure.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25. Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013

Contact Officer

Elen Probert, Principal Housing and Pollution Officer - Tel. 01446 709833

Officers Consulted

Legal Services - Richard Price, Principal Lawyer

Financial Services - Laura Davis, Finance Support Manager

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Director of Development Services