Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
K.R. writes: In October 2020, we purchased a static caravan at Caer Mynydd Caravan Park in North Wales.
It was a small, family-run park with a happy, friendly environment. Last August, the park was sold to the Hill Brothers and the environment changed overnight.
We were issued with a 16-page licence agreement that, if signed, would give them complete control over ourselves and our caravan.
Issues: The Hill Brothers run a number of sites including Caer Mynydd Caravan Park in North Wales
Tony Hetherington replies: You have told me that you refused to sign the new agreement. You had paid the previous owner your site fees through to March this year, and expected this to be honoured.
However, you say you were told you had to pay the Hill Brothers £1,000 by the end of October, and a further £2,000 by the end of 2021. Fail to pay, and you would face a demand for £6,000.
Not surprisingly, you decided to move out and take your caravan to a new site. But you were then told that you had to fork out £2,500 for the Hill Brothers to disconnect your caravan and tow it about 200 yards to the site exit.
You say you were also told that you had to give the new owners a period of notice which would have taken you up to the date when a whole new annual fee would be due.
You tried to sidestep this situation by hiring help to relocate privately, and the site manager seemed to go along with this.
But when your help arrived, the site manager called the Hill Brothers’ head office and was told to block the exit and refuse to let you leave unless you handed over £1,500. You told me you felt you had no choice, so you paid.
This should have been the end of the horror story, but the next day, when the transporter arrived to remove your caravan, the site manager rang his head office again.
This time you were told to pay another £1,000, which you described to me as ‘ransom’.
You finally escaped from the Hill Brothers’ clutches, but you say some owners have simply abandoned their caravans at the site.
The Hill Brothers and their company Britaniacrest Limited run a number of similar holiday parks and are no strangers to official attention.
Wirral Council has been investigating their Park Lane site which is only permitted to have holidaymakers but where customers were allegedly told they could live all year round without paying any council tax.
There have also been complaints there from customers who say they were ordered to buy a new caravan from the Hill Brothers or get out.
And at the Westend Residential Park, not far from Blackpool, caravan owners say that after the Hill Brothers bought the site they were told existing contracts were no longer valid, and fees almost doubled.
The Hill Brothers were repeatedly invited to comment but did not respond. If they change their minds now and offer any explanation for what you have told me happened in North Wales, then we shall publish it here.
But it does appear that there is a pattern of behaviour, and anyone thinking of buying a caravan on one of their sites should be very, very careful.
Why must I wait 8 weeks when law firm is shut?
D.F. writes: I rang the Legal Ombudsman as I had been waiting months to find out if my complaint against Harraway Law Limited is still active.
They said I had failed to provide proof that I had actually complained to Caroline Harraway herself, and that I must give her eight weeks to respond.
I find the idea that I might have to write further letters to her as abhorrent.
Disarray: Lawyer Caroline Harraway abandoned her own firm last year
Tony Hetherington replies: I reported in December that Harraway Law, based at Cottingham near Hull, was in a state of collapse. Its owner and sole director, solicitor
Caroline Harraway, simply walked out and abandoned the firm last June, and in July it closed down for good.
This left clients in a mess. You had paid hundreds of pounds for work that was never done. Caroline Harraway denied that you had paid her, though your bank proved that the payment had been made.
She also suggested that you had done an under-the-counter deal with one of her own staff to have the legal work done by him, so avoiding paying her.
This was false too, but I am not surprised that you think any further contact with her would not be pleasant.
With all this in mind, I asked the Legal Ombudsman to reconsider. Her law practice no longer exists, so why should you have to wait another eight weeks to get nowhere?
After a long conversation a few days ago with the Birmingham-based Ombudsman, I am glad to say that common sense prevailed and officials agreed that it would be pointless.
The Ombudsman is now going ahead with considering your complaint as a matter of priority.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
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