Brightlingsea Town Council (BTC) has admitted that it doesn't know when the Lakeside caravan site in Promenade Way will reopen – describing the situation as "far from ideal".
This week the council confirmed that the lease of the site has been transferred to Brightlingsea Haven Ltd, the company that operates the nearby Brightlingsea Leisure Village holiday park. Though BTC owns the site, the lease can be sold on or transferred by whoever holds it.
The long Easter holiday is traditionally the start of the camping and caravanning year and Lakeside – the town's biggest single provider of overnight accommodation – would normally be open for visitors. But this Easter the site is shut – as it has been since the end of the 2021 season – with no signs of activity.
In a statement, BTC said that it "expects the site to re-open in time for the summer season, but we do not control this". It added: "We acknowledge that with a busy summer ahead for the town this is far from ideal," and said that the new owners have "much remedial work to do" – but did not say what this might involve.
In 2021 the previous leaseholder was issued with an enforcement notice after digging up the site to install 50 gravelled pitches and an access road – without planning permission. Poor drainage meant many pitches were left under water after heavy rain, while an inspection by a Tendring District Council (TDC) environmental health officer discovered that the leaseholder had no licence and found fault with the site's fire precautions.
Despite a number of pitches being closer together than stipulated under TDC's site licensing rules, an application for retrospective planning permission was approved by district planners and the site continued to operate – with little apparent remedial work.
In December 2020, after the remodelling work began BTC issued a statement which said: "The Lakeside Campsite is being extensively upgraded to a very high standard, and will welcome motor caravans and touring caravans and tents to the site when the the 2021 season opens," and added: "Brightlingsea Town Council has been kept informed and is delighted with the progress, which will put the town even higher up on the list of preferred tourist destinations."
However, although the council promised that there would be 30 camping pitches on the site, there were none on grass when the work was completed. Instead, campers were told to pitch their tents on rough gravel – with some reporting damage to groundsheets as a result. One review on Trip Advisor from July 2021 said Lakeside "has to be the worst campsite in England", while the state of the toilets and other facilities were criticised by others. The site's location and proximity to the town was, however, seen as a plus point by others.
Over the last few weeks Brightlingsea Info has been contacted by many would-be visitors to the town who have been trying to find out whether the site will be open. Some wanted to visit family, while others wanted somewhere to stay while taking part in national sailing events being hosted by the Colne Yacht Club and Brightlingsea Sailing Club this summer summer. The sailing club is to use the scout ground off Lower Park Road as a temporary camp site for a double national championship over the Platinum Jubilee weekend – partly because of the absence of suitable tent camping at Lakeside.
Lakeside's lease stipulates that it must be used for touring only – ie, no static caravans or chalets – and BTC says that it "expects this to continue". The council also blamed the lack of communication about the site on "the legal processes involved with the lease changing hands".
• Brightlingsea Info has attempted to contact the Nottingham-based Countrywide Park Homes group, which took over the Brightlingsea Haven park last year – without success. The company owns residential and holiday parks across the UK, but its website lists no other touring sites.