Saturday, October 10, 2009

Swanage Bay View Transition News

On 15 October, Darwin takes over Swanage Bay View Holiday Park. The Council will receive 7.25 million pounds. There have been no official announcements about any changes that are due to take place after that date - some of which will impact us all.

We need a thread - call it SBV Transition News - so that owners at the Park, the residents of Swanage, and anyone else can post updates as and when they are announced. Otherwise rumours will spread unnecessarily (at least, within this forum rumours can be challenged and corrected). Let's aim to keep it factual and civilised!

Posted by Anonymous to swanageview at 3:21 PM


Anonymous said...

I received a letter from SBV today stating that the Vista will be closed all of October 15th - transition day. No other information was included, except that the trading name appears to be Darwin (Swanage Bay View) Ltd.

Anonymous said...

Has anybody been up to the park to see if the swimming timetable is the same after the 15th as it is now? Will school continue to use the pool?
Hope so!

Anonymous said...

I know the staff and councilors are having a bash on wednesday evening. The owners arn't invited

Swananon said...

I will ask why did our noble councillors sell the town down the river for £7.25million with a paltry £30,000 per year for 105 years when it has been contributing around £500,000 per year to the council coffers.
It has been suggested on the blog that it was to pay off the debts. If my memory is correct, back in 2000 or thereabouts, the then Mayor, Councillor Suttle informed the town that the outstanding debt was £1.4million.
If we consult the accounts for 2007-8 on the council web site it shows the outstanding debt was then £421,450 with a balance in the bank of £273,037 which makes me ask again what was the need to sell our childrens heritage rather than take a realistic rent in the region of £500,000 per annum with regular rent reviews as any private company would.
What may I ask have the noble councillors have in mind to spend this money on.

Anonymous said...

A new Town Hall

Anonymous said...

I do wonder what planet some posters inhabit.

Anonymous said...

Let's wait and see.

How the Council invests - or spends - 7.25 million will expose it in a way it has never experienced.

It cannot hide how it uses this money. A Freedom of Information request will force them to transparency. Let's hope they use this largess wisely.

Anonymous said...

'I know the staff and councilors are having a bash on wednesday evening. The owners aren't invited'

Can't see what's wrong with this - the Council and Staff having a bit of fun on the last night - why should owners be invited? Get a grip. Most owners will be happy to see the back of STC as owners/managers of the Park (I am sure the feeling is mutual).

It will be interesting to see how Darwin greets the owners, however. It is a clear business decision for them - the first of many to come.

Anonymous said...

I just love these toy-town discussions. Here we have the mayor and corporation holed up in their bastille in the High Street presiding over a micro empire of car parks, boat parks and public parks being treated as if they were running mayor Daly's Chicago. Why dignify their over-inflated posture in this way? Decisions that would be taken by a clerk in any sensible organisation are expanded and expanded until they take years.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more!!!

'Carry On Councilors'!!!!

What a film it would make - Peter Sellers as Town Clerk, Tony Hancock as the Mayor, Alasdair Sims in drag as a number of councilors, and Hyacinth Bucket ('bouquet') as a certain lady councilor - I am sure Basil Fawlty (of Swanage) fits in there somewhere, too!

Bless 'em - they do it for nothing!

Joking aside, their decisions DO affect people's welfare.

Anonymous said...

If you think they are useless, then put yourself up for it. No good whinging and moaning. People in Swanage generally do not take an interest in what is going on. 3 - 4 people from the town at their council meetings, what apathy abounds! If you really care then turn up at the meetings and ask questions.

Anonymous said...

What are these decisions they take? Some posters seem to think the mayor of toytown has vast power. As a body the town council are entitled to be consulted about all sorts of issues that other organisations decide, e.g. planning, but decisions that effect peoples welfare? Can we have some for instances please. They don't run housing, transport, education or anything that matters. Car parks and the ice cream kiosk concession - what else?

It is an old adage in human resources that if you pay peanuts you employ monkeys. Town Councillors get nothing more than expenses so what do you expect?

Anonymous said...

I have attended innumerable meetings. Some find the timings of meetings difficult, due to work commitments. May I humbly suggest two ideas to make the meetings more accessible?:

1) Have the entire council sit facing the public (straight-line or horseshoe) so that the public can hear what is said, and the council can be reminded that they serve on behalf of the public. Currently this happens only during public participation time. Otherwise the council turns its back on the public, which make it hard to hear, and seems, well, just plain rude.

2) Record the proceedings on video and have them posted on the council website so that everyone who could not attend the meetings will be able to view them via the web. Perhaps this could be assigned to students intent on studying media studies as part of their curriculum. This happens elsewhere and there is no reason why it cannot be introduced in Swanage. Perhaps then more will take an interest in Council meetings.

However, we digress from the purpose of this thread. Has anyone found out whether or not public swimming will continue at the Vista after 15th October?? I suggest this IS important to many!

Anonymous said...

Regarding comments above:
1/ You could make a proposal to the Town Clerk
2/ You could ask the Manager

David Furmage said...

Thing is no good looking at the council website tis never up to date , you will probably find out more on site like this one.

As for standing up for council great idea as long as your a Conservative or a blue nose as I call them , would you get any say on what goes on. Look at most of them on that council , "yes" people thats what they are. They dont even serve any of us , they make the decisions weather you like it or not. You dont have a say in it . Its as simple as that.

Postman2 said...

I agree Dave that the "council website is never up to date". I have to admit this puts me off going along and asking questions just in case the matter has been dealt with extensively on a previous occasion. There really is no excuse for not posting up minutes for all to read immediately(even before they have been agreed).

Anonymous said...

Yes, but...............

Has anybody found out whether the pool will stay open after the 15th?


Whether the clubs that lease the Vista will continue to do so (Operetta Society, Bowls Club,Shooting and Archery).


Will the Quarryman and the restaurant stay open?

My suspicion is that, for the time being, all these will continue as is but............

I am not able to be in Swanage at the moment so if anyone could find out it would be appreciated. SBV reception cannot say anything right now.


Anonymous said...

'Regarding comments above:
1/ You could make a proposal to the Town Clerk
2/ You could ask the Manager'


1) I have, son more than one occasion, and have done so in a Council Meeting, as well. No response.

2) I have. 'Not able to comment' was the answer. Hence I am asking now, as there should be an answer after the 15th.

If I find out anything I will post it.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the magic date has arrived - October 15th.

Welcome, Darwin! Be a good neighbour of Swanage.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmmm......strange people behind closed doors at the Vista.....staff looking 'concerned' owners unavailable to caravan owners......

Ergo: BIG changes ahead!

Anonymous said...

Have been told that the new owners may make some big changes to the 'letting of owners' caravans' scheme.
Such as: the letting fleet will have to comply to one standard, right down to crockery and tableware, and that the age of caravans may preclude them from being accepted into the program.

Has anyone heard any more?

Anonymous said...

So - all those caravan owners who currently let out their caravan maybe excluded. however there is no reason why they cannot continue letting privately.
Maybe Darwin are going to bring in a fleet of vans to let - you know slip one here and there in any small space. we will have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Has any owner discovered whether our licences will continue to be honoured by the new owners, Darwin? This was the hot topic all last year. No answer about this from the staff at the park. Doesn't mean they won't, but....

Anonymous said...

Gym and Sauna closed due to 'refubishment' (sic - as printed on the sign at the Vista).

Anonymous said...

I understand that facilities are being fast-tracked for improvement so that the site can be awarded a 5 Star rating (previously it briefly held a four star rating before being downgraded to 3 star due to poor facilities). This improved star rating will justify a call for a massive increase in annual site fees for 2010.

Anonymous said...

No it will not. They are still paying 4* fees. There was never any reduction for the loss of a star

Anonymous said...

Wait until you see what 5* fees are!

Anonymous said...

services have gone down to almost nothing - reduction from 4-3 * owners are due a refund in 09/10 fees.

same principle applies surely!??

yes we will wait and see.

Anonymous said...

It wont get 5* something to do with the gas supply.

Anonymous said...

'It wont get 5* something to do with the gas supply.'

4:11 PM

I have heard this before but have found no evidence to support it. I have seen the relevant letters establishing, and removing, the 4* rating - gas is not mentioned (and there is a way around this issue anyway).

However, the star rating can apply to the Vista separately from the Park. The reduction from 4* to 3* was due primarily to the lack of a shop, and the deplorable state of the loos in the Quarryman - both items clearly noted - and nothing to do with gas.

The new owners WILL bring the park into line with its other holdings. If you study their website, and look at their holdings, you will see a high proportion of caravans for letting. You will also see that the let caravans are held to a high, and homogenous, standard. Like-for-like crockery, new carpets and upholstery, new(-ish) caravans, etc.

I understand that Darwin will soon inspect all caravans that have been on the rental scheme. Stay tuned.

So, if you own an older caravan (6+ years) and have been letting it through the park, you may have to do it privately. Borderline-condition caravans may need expensive upgrading to be accepted by Darwin. It will be interesting to see how this transition occurs. So far, Darwin is keeping its cards close to its chest.

The upside is that Darwin will raise the profile of holiday lettings at the park. Their marketing of the park will be comprehensive and far-reaching. If your caravan is part of their scheme, you may have a better experience with them, but this remains to be seen. The downside remains to be seen, but in light of what I have written I suppose it will become more expensive for the owners. I very much doubt it will be the same, or less expensive, to own a caravan at SBV.

Anonymous said...

Extraordinary events today - the Owners' Association (no, I am not a member) held a meeting at the Vista - about 175 attended - they paid 25 quid to hire the room. When the hour ended, the bar managers in effect told the meeting to b&gg$r off - TV and music turned one - impossible to continue.

I am an owner. I think Darwin had better look long and hard into this. This was their first interaction with a large group of owners. I do not think they sanctioned upsetting and offending their client base. I suspect this was sanctioned by a holdover employee from the STC days.

Perhaps the staff of the bar and the general manager should join the ranks of those looking for employment. The owners do not deserve this offensive treatment.

This was NOT a good day for the new owners and their investors.

Until this is resolved I will not be investing in Darwin, as I had planned to do. They need to prove that they have strength in customer relations. This event
was simply sickening.

They can do this by sacking whoever made this decision, and apologising to the Owners.

Anonymous said...

But they won't. They will carry on as usual. The owners are stuffed.

New licences on the way! Yippee!! With lots of 'goodies' added to benefit the new owner of the park. Be warned!! Read them CAREFULLY.

Anonymous said...

True, I have just enjoyed a large breakfast. I already have a licence which I have read CAREFULLY. Apparently, Swanage Town Council HAS NOT read my existing licence CAREFULLY.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but the jolly old STC no longer 'owns' the park.

Are you telling me that they still 'owe' us over the licence they have signed? Do they think their side of the bargain ended on 15.10?

Tell me, dear previous poster, are you playing with a 'full deck' - are you an ace, spade, heart or diamond?

I think I know you!!

Anonymous said...

'ace, spade, heart or diamond?'

Or even a club!

Anonymous said...

It can be difficult to follow the thinking of STC. Can anyone explain how it is in the public interest for the public to be excluded from a matter of public interest ?

Anonymous said...

'It can be difficult to follow the thinking of STC. Can anyone explain how it is in the public interest for the public to be excluded from a matter of public interest ?'

It is the same sort of thinking as 'This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you' or 'What you don't see won't hurt you.' I think the Town Council shares the same sort of logic as found in 'Alice in Wonderland'.

After all, one or two Council Members bear some resemblence to characters in that book! I will stop there.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't STC sell off the Vista as affordable housing lots ??

Anonymous said...

'Why didn't STC sell off the Vista as affordable housing lots ??'

For one reason, the whole site is a former quarry. It cannot withstand the weight of houses.

The second reason is that the town still 'owns' the land - the lease is for 105 years. It has not been sold - only the lease has (and the business).

Third, PDC has deemed the land suitable for a non-residential caravan park, not for residential development.

Anonymous said...

'Apparently, Swanage Town Council HAS NOT read my existing license CAREFULLY.'

And that is that. Darwin now owns the Park.

I have heard it said that new licences will be issued after 15.11 - based on the new model license.

If owners refuse to sign these (they are different) will their old license remain in force? Methinks some controversy lies ahead................

Anonymous said...

'Why didn't STC sell off the Vista as affordable housing lots ??'

For one reason, the whole site is a former quarry. It cannot withstand the weight of houses.

Low impact, affordable housing is not heavy! Foudations not necessary, they can be built on pads.

The second reason is that the town still 'owns' the land - the lease is for 105 years. It has not been sold - only the lease has (and the business).

Even more reason for the Council to have rented the land for low impact development.

Third, PDC has deemed the land suitable for a non-residential caravan park, not for residential development.

Why..a good 21st C architect could come with something creative with good 'low impact rating'.

Our vision
We want everyone to have access to a decent home at a price they can afford, in a place where they want to live and work. Good quality, affordable housing enables stable and secure family lives: we are all healthier, happier and wealthier when we have decent homes close to schools, healthcare and transport links.
But this is not just an issue for families. Good housing can improve our social, environmental and economic well-being. It helps create better communities that can attract investment and skilled workers. And getting the design right can also improve the environment and reduce our carbon footprint.
Therefore, the strategic housing decisions we take collectively over the next few years are critical to the life chances of the next generation.

Anonymous said...

To the previous poster: I did suggest to the Town Clerk and several councillors that the caravan site could be turned into a trust, to provide stable sites for lodges which would have offered low rent, suitable accommodation to up to 325 households. I remember at one time a housing authority was eyeing the park when it was offered for tender. One wonders whether they were checking the viability of this?

(One small point: every caravan owner would have to have his caravan and licence 'bought back' to make this work - something in the range of 7.5 million pounds before the first lodge is built. And no - you can't just kick the caravan owners out.)

In any event, this and other options were thrown out by the Council so that it could obtain the most cash right now (at the expense of any significant(*) tangible income for the next 105 years). Rather like giving a 16 year old his inheritance. Well, good luck, Swanage. I suspect you will have many regrets in the future due to this decision.

(*) As part of its lease, Darwin will pay 30,000 pound p.a. for 105 years. As far as I know, this is not index linked. With inflation, what will 30k be worth in 2114?)

Anonymous said...

Difficult to say, but taking an historic look at inflation, the rise over 105 years has been 8843%. £30,000 will be worth £335.46p, about 90 times less than now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I believe my point (two comments back) is proven then. STC sold Swanage down the river on this deal.

Happycamper said...

I hear Darwin are sending in the surveyors to SBV to "undertake a measured survey of the whole site,which shall include all boundaries, buildings,caravans and associated decking areas, roads, pathways and drainage". Whats that all about I wonder? Some rearrangement on the cards during the closed period perhaps?????

Anonymous said...

Yes. I suspect that pitch fees will be changed to reflect location, size (especially larger caravans that have oversized pitches), view (seas and or hills) and so on.

Sort of a rehash of the pitch premium proposal a few years back. They will strike while they have the opportunity to do so. They have to. There in it for their investors, not their caravan owners.

Anonymous said...

Have heard that Darwin will come out of hiding to meet the Owners for the first time on Tuesday, 17th Nov - late afternoon. Not sure of exact time. They will meet all owners who wish to attend, not just Owners' Association. Letters in post about this? If I hear more specifics I will post them here.

Anonymous said...

'Date 07/11/2009

Dear Owner,

On behalf of Darwin, we invite you to an open forum to be held in the restaurant on November 17th between 4pm and 5pm as an opportunity for the new owners to meet with customers at Swanage Bay View and that you have an opportunity to gain insight into the group.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be served during this period.

We do hope that you will be able to attend, and look forward to seeing you on the 17th November.

Yours sincerely,

Victoria Fooks
Park Manager'


Sent to all named Owners (here mistakenly referred to as Customers).

Anonymous said...

I am an Owner with a sizeable investment in the Park - I resent being labeled a 'customer' by the author of this letter.

I have been told that Darwin will not accept the Bay View Owners' Association as the official body representing Owners' interests. Is this true? Or has Darwin 'recognised' BVOA as representative of the majority of Owners, as STC did?

I have also been told that Darwin will communicate with all named Owners and not specifically to only those who belong to BVOA, or to BVOA solely over important policy matters.

Anonymous said...

There is no way Darwin can change fees without our agreement - OFT 734 and Trading Standards. There cannot be variable pitch fees or anything else else like that. Indeed the Town Clerk has already argued that the present vans are priced by Glasses guide and the balance up to the Fair Market Value is for the view anyway!! So they can't have it twice. Owners cannot be charged for things that they were not told of when they first bought and to which they do not agree now.

If Darwin realise they have not got what they expected when they bought the park, then they must go back to the Council for being mislead (or |Darwin did not do enough due diligence), for redress. They cannot take it out on the caravan owners who were not consulted at any point, although they had asked for meetings with Darwin before they bought the park.

Also the BVOA (Owners Ass) represents 230 of the caravan owners and Darwin will have to deal with it in due course. The recognition given by the Council to the Association carries over to Darwin.

happycamper said...

I wonder how many "customers" who either a)dont live on the park or b)have jobs, will be available at 4 -5pm on a tuesday night? Carefully timing or careless scheduling???

Anonymous said...

1.31 I hope you are right, but I suspect there will be a lot of work needed to get Darwin to accept this.

My suspicion is that they will try to bulldoze through their agenda. Will OFT help us? They seem to have let us down in the past six months.

Fingers are crossed that you are right.

5.03 You bet your sweet bippy this date (less than a week hence and at an inconvenient time for most owners) was chosen for those very reasons!

I hope they talk about licenses, fees, summer rentals etc etc and not 'corporate strategy' and 'investment potential'! And just one hour in length? Flannel, flannel, flannel.....

Anonymous said...

They will probably not give any new information away. Is the Owners' Association being represented at the meeting? Will they ask about our licenses and OFT734 etc?

happycamper said...

I suspect Darwin will be very interested to see just who does turn up at their "open forum"! Perhaps Darwin will be good for SBV - I have asked around a little and no one in the business has said anything bad about them. Has anyone had a look at their other parks or talked to the owners there? At first glance their mission statement sounds ok, so perhaps some positive thinking is in order. Incidently, surely it is only right that Darwin corresponds directly with all named owners and not just with the owners association. Not all the owners are members so the association cannot claim to speak for all of the owners. Personally I prefer to hear what Darwin are saying direct rather than just hearing the association's interpretation.

Anonymous said...

happycamper- I agree with you entirely. Thanks for such a clear and fair post!

Anonymous said...

The BVOA represents 83% of owners. Alot of owners have " Drained down" for the winter already. (It's a bit nippy up there) Others have to work, they have chidren who are at school. Last week while I was there I counted 3 vans that were still in use one of which was the last visit of the year. So Darwin will not get the sort of welcome they expect from those who have to travel considerable distance to attend and with only 7 days notice. Some owners have yet to get their invite. This is not customer friendly.

Anonymous said...

I think you are right. Few will be there. But I suspect it is not a forum for discussion of issues - more a sort of welcome party.

The next few months will be challenging. Will OFT do its bit if the new owners 'try it on'? The new owners will have a mandate to work for its investors, not the owners.

Somehow I think SBVOA will have more teeth if it represents all owners. Don't know how this can be achieved. Good luck anyway.

Anonymous said...

Some owners have yet to get their invite. This is not customer friendly.


SBV hasn't been customer friendly for years. The present atmosphere is frosty towards owners, as if it is 'pay-back time'. If I were an investor in Darwin I would be on to the Board to sort this out as soon as possible. Happy campers = Happy investors.

Anonymous said...

From the school of 'back of napkin' accounting:

Darwin paid 7.25 million which must be presumed comes from investors. Looking at the Fund's financials, I estimate a 1:15 returns-to-price ration. That means the pre-tax net income should be about 7% of the investment, or in excess of 1/2 million pound p.a.

Add to this tax, rates, salaries, water, electricity, gas, insurance, the loss making Vista, etc. etc. and you have to produce an annual gross income in excess of 1 million pounds.

Divide that by 275 pitches and the resulting pitch price should be over 3600 pounds per year, a rise of about 20%.

Of course any investment into the park will increase this amount.

I predict 2010 pitch fees will be in the range of 3800 p.a. based upon improving the park to four stars.

I also predict a 'buy back' at desultory rates for those who want out, so that Darwin can increase rentals.

I predict that all owners will be expected to sign the new 'model' license which offers less protection than the existing license.

I do predict that Darwin will improve the site, and that it will be better - and more expensive - in two or three years, and that many current owners will have left by then.

I predict that the Office of Fair Trading will not prevent this from happening, as Darwin will move cautiously and 'seem' to comply, making a legal ruling difficult.

I predict that Darwin will prevail in the long run. They have the legal clout the owners lack, and time is on their side.

Just my thoughts...anybody have an aspirin??

happycamper said...

I understand that the issue of people living on the park has been raised a few times in the past. I think if I were Darwin I would call a meeting at short notice and a very inconvenient time and see who turned up. They would be at the top of my list...............
The owners association might have more success recruiting members if they didnt harp on about whoever is running the park being either half witted or criminal. It is no surprise they have difficulty negociating with people if this is their attitude - I suspect their reputation goes before them as far as Darwin are concerned and that is why they are in no hurry to engage with them. Not the best way to forge a good working relationship which is surely what we need!!!!

Anonymous said...

6:07PM wrote

"The owners association might have more success recruiting members if they didnt harp on about whoever is running the park being either half witted or criminal."

Could you please provide evidence to support this accusation ?

The open forum on the 17th. November is for the new owners to meet with customers at SBV. Customers would include those that use the pool, and dancing, bowls and shooting clubs, Karaoke and bar users, anyone with a wedding reception or function planned, and other user groups as well.

One hour does seem a short time to try and accommodate everyone

happycamper said...

You are right, all the people you mention are customers and entitled to be at the meeting - but as I said before, the vast majority of them will have jobs and so be unavailable at 4pm on a tuesday!!!! So who is the meeting aimed at ??
I am sure the owners association have done good work in the past but their present attitude is questionable. If you want evidence read the letter to the owners from the Town Clerk on 20th May. He was saying what I was thinking. I sat in on two association meetings and was appalled by the way the association spoke about the General Manager. I had heard about the behaviour mentioned in the letter previously and it was just plainly unacceptable. No member of staff should be subjected to abuse of that kind.
Secondly the associations stance on mail is misguided and trying to portay the councils policy as illegal will not enhance their credibility. I went to the first meeting with every intention of joining (I soon changed my mind!)and the second as I thought I may have just caught them on a bad day (I hadn't).
Obviously Darwin are in business to make a profit for their investors, they wouldn't have any investors if they didnt do that - but that is not necessarily a bad thing. They must have a business formula and surely the best way to find that out is to look at their other parks and talk to the owners there instead of assuming the worse!! Change is often for the better. You never know you might be surprised, SBV may be going up in world and Kate Moss may indeed be sighted in the Vista bar!!!!!

Anonymous said...

'The open forum on the 17th. November is for the new owners to meet with customers at SBV. Customers would include those that use the pool, and dancing, bowls and shooting clubs, Karaoke and bar users, anyone with a wedding reception or function planned, and other user groups as well.'

I enquired at the desk. Was told it will be an informal 'get to know you' meeting - nothing more - for those have been sent the letter about the meeting on the 17th. As of Friday there was no notice in the Vista inviting others (not owners). If it is for the general public, I think they would have posted it an perhaps placed a notice in the Advertiser, and even on blogs such as this others.

However, I do hope they have invited representatives of the three organisations that lease parts of the Vista (shooting, bowls, choral and operatic socs.).

Anonymous said...

I agree with 9.08. The Committee has done some fine work but it has also gone off on a tangent with wild accusations and unkind name calling that have proven to be unproductive. The letter 9.08 cited is the evidence you ask for, as would be the committee's letters and statements that provoked that letter from the Town Clerk.

Anonymous said...

Treating a letter from the Town Clerk as providing incontrovertible evidence may not be entirely wise.

Anonymous said...

Letters sent by the Association to the Town Clerk, Mayor and Town Council are in the Public Domain and more than justify the claims about the Association's behaviour. Even the last post attests to this.

happycamper said...

The owners association at the moment seems to be run by a small group who have their own agenda. I cant see any good reason to keep raking over old issues which have nothing to do with Darwin.
Does anyone know anything about their other parks? Anyone visited one? If they are building a "brand" then their licenses and ways of managing all the parks will be the same. You can bet your bottom dollar that none of these policies will be illegal or unenforcable. Their operation is well polished by now. Look closely at the other parks and you will see SBV in the next few years.
If there is anything the owners are not happy with, wild accusations and unacceptable behaviour will get them nowhere!!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Their operation is well polished? They have only been running for 18months. All the other sites they have purchased have been small sites. SBV is the first big one. You harp on about owners being abusive to staff. You have instances of this? Not rumours or hearsay? You fail to mention staff being abusive to owners. Yes I have instances and not rumours.

They had to back down on fees at one of their other parks. How do I know ? We went to visit and talked to owners there.

Post? I’ve had post opened put in another window envelope and addressed ( hand written ) on the outside. The letter was put in the envelope the wrong way round.

I could run through all the other rumours on the park, most coming from the staff.

Lets wait and see what happens. But I expect any law and agreement adheared too.

happycamper said...

18 months is plenty of time to polish a business operation - running a a holiday caravan site is not rocket science!!! I am equally sure they have a standard licence agreement.
I am pleased to hear you have visited one of their sites, that is exactly the sort of information we do need to know. There is an art to getting what you want when negociating with anyone and the present owners association seem to have lost that skill.
I dont beleive the instances mentioned in the letter from the Town Clerk were either rumour or heresay - I heard members of the association detailing how they had spoken to the general manager when I attended the first meeting.
In dealings I have had with any member of staff, including the general manager, I have always been treated politely and professionally. Perhaps its how you approach them.........
As far as post is concerned, I find it hard to understand why you would want to receive post at the park if you have a permanant address elsewhere?? If it was really unavoidable there are ways to arrange to collect post from the local post office. It was made clear to me when I bought my caravan that I did not have the right to use the park as a postal address. You were lucky they readdressed your letter - all they were obliged to do was to mark it "return to sender" and then you would have been lucky to ever see it again.

Anonymous said...

You were lucky they readdressed your letter - all they were obliged to do was to mark it "return to sender" and then you would have been lucky to ever see it again.

All other post has "GONE MISSING"

I spend as much time as I can at the site. Unfortunately I need to pay bills such as my credit card. They tend not to wait untill I get home. I was told " Yes you can have post delivered" My opened post was obviously read first and it was decided I could recieve it.What a cheek !! You don't mind anyone reading your post?

As for staff I've heard what they say behind owners backs. It's not very complimentary.

happycamper said...

Doh! you can do all sorts of things online (other than writing blogs like this) like viewing and paying credit card bills........
I cetainly would not like other people reading my mail, thats why I only get it sent to my home address. If you want your missing mail try Royal Mail return letters branch, where you will find postal officers reading your mail to decide where to send it.
Seriously though, lets get onto more immediate concerns - has anyone been to the "welcome forum"?? Have you learned anything useful?? Any suits there or did the general manager draw the short straw and get landed with passing on information and handing round the sandwiches??

Anonymous said...

I understand all Darwin were there.

Anonymous said...

But who else? What was said? If anything?

I understand that they (Darwin) have to write to us all by November 30th - not far off - to propose 2010 site fees. I would hope they send a whole package of information out at the same time to put us in the picture, over such items as the future of the private letting scheme, plans for developing the park, and so on.

I expect the park will aim for 5 star rating (ok ok they have to sort out the gas supply but..) in a year's time - hard to believe they can do it as currently the upstairs loos are in a state, the gym is closed, as is the sauna - even the coffee amchine in the Vista says "Sorry Not Working'!!

Time will tell....

Happycamper said...

I hope they improve the beer in the Quarryman Bar!!!!

Anonymous said...

i,le second that!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think they have a shock over the H & S in the vista centre alone!

Anonymous said...

I am quite sure that is why the 'finess gym' was quickly shut after Darwin took over!

Forgot to mention - they will also need a shop - at least during high season - if they want 4 or 5 star rating.

Anonymous said...

When I mentioned to the previous manager of the park that the beer was %^&*, he said 'nuthing wrong wiv it' or some such.

Darwin can only be better!! Let's get in some local brews as a 'guest beer' I am sure they would like the exposure.

Anonymous said...

anoymous do you really think anyone in Swanage truly understands how much this council their council has given the Vista away for at the moment the park their is aprox 300 Caravans on the site paying just under £3.000 per year each errr i think thats £900.000 less your running cost lets say £500.000 so whats left errr £400.000 x 105 years i think thats about £42.000.000 million so whats dose Mr Leeson and all those other Council P...k.s do yep they sell it of for £10.4 million over the 105 years but do you know whats really Sad about this they did`ent have to sell the park they wer`ent told to sell it by the auditors only that they should`ent be buying Caravans or selling Caravans they had an offer by two owners on the park to run the site as a Arms lenth Company so almost all the same amount of profit would still go back to the town but no once again Mr LEESON said no why why why what have you really got to hide Mr Leeson wonder if your still going to be hear when the people of Swanage truly understand how Let them Down

happycamper said...

Anonymous -Think this is all rather late - the era of swanage town council has gone and Darwin is in charge. the deal has been done and we cant go back. What we need now is to work together and shape SBV into something we are all happy with !!! Now about the beer- piddle brewery or studland bay - where shall we start???

Anonymous said...

Ummm...don't much care for Piddle...Studland Brewery is a good pint...Ringwood is a good stand-by pint.

You are right about the debate over the sale of the park - it is history. As one of the two who proposed an owners' arms'-length company, and also a community trust, I feel sorry for the people of Swanage who have lost a valuable asset. But there we moves on. Swanage has a history of such decisions, yet it somehow muddles on......

Anonymous said...

Old father time has failed, summon the Silent Slasher.

Anonymous said...

To stock a decent beer at the Vista you would need many more customers to drink it before it went off. Barrels go off after 3 days apparently.
I did not go to tea and biscuits with Darwin last tuesday, but it seems some local people, who use the Vista on a regular basis, were turned away by staff of SBV - not allowed in, reason that they are not caravan owners. That says an awful lot about the dismissive attitude towards customers of The Vista.

Happycamper said...

Hopefully when Darwin have revamped the vista complex it will attract many more customers to drink the beer!!!
I think it was entirely reasonable to turn away people who do not own caravans here from a meeting which was organised especially for owners.
Very few of the larger successfull holiday sites I have visited allow free access to their facilities to people who are not either owners or renting holday accomadation on the park. If Darwin are planning to vastly improve the facilities I dont want to have to compete with all of Swanage for a seat in the sauna.
Perhaps the town council could use some of the money they got for the site to build their own leisure centre and leave us to enjoy the exclusive facilities our site fees will be paying for!!

Happycamper said...

Hopefully when Darwin have revamped the vista complex it will attract many more customers to drink the beer!!!
I think it was entirely reasonable to turn away people who do not own caravans here from a meeting which was organised especially for owners.
Very few of the larger successfull holiday sites I have visited allow free access to their facilities to people who are not either owners or renting holday accomadation on the park. If Darwin are planning to vastly improve the facilities I dont want to have to compete with all of Swanage for a seat in the sauna.
Perhaps the town council could use some of the money they got for the site to build their own leisure centre and leave us to enjoy the exclusive facilities our site fees will be paying for!!

Anonymous said...

I agree it was unfortunate the locals were turned away, as the notice about the meeting clearly invited customers to attend. As an owner, I take issue with being called a customer. Tenant, leaseholder, caravan owner, fine, but customer - no.

I spent several month examining the books last year and I can assure you that the Vista runs at a considerable loss. Swimming pools always lose money. If we want just our bums on the sauna seat, we (the custo...oops...I mean Owners) will have to make up whatever income the locals and schools contribute. Any pub or restaurant run only for the owners will lose money (it has been tried over and over again, without success). Do the Owners want a five star Vista - and do we want to pay for it?

I suspect Darwin's business plan is to have the Park revert to a larger percentage of letting caravans (lettings by Darwin, not owners) as this will provide more income and will better support the Vista facilities. That is what I would do, if I were in their shoes. That means they want to begin to increase their letting fleet by maximising the available plots (25 additional spaces are allowed under the license from PDC). They could move the hire fleet nearer to the Vista, to create a letting area and a residential/owners' park area (us). Sound good? Those with lower pitches would have to be moved, at Darwin's expense, to a pitch of equal or better postioning (read your license). Of course, whack up the fees and a flock of caravans will go on sale - another way to clear space for letting fleet caravans. Why do you think a major survey took place over many days last week?

So, in a nutshell, the decision taken by STC six years ago to sell off the letting fleet and replace it with new caravan owners (us) is IMHO about to be changed. It may happen slowly, through normal attrition, and we might have a better park, with separate areas, for owners' caravans and the hire fleet.

If this happens, then the income from this could help control our site fees, while improving the income for a more viable Vista. Could be good, could be bad - make up your own mind. I think the status quo is not viable, whether under STC in the past or Darwin in the future. I have seen the books.

happycamper said...

Think we already knew the status quo is not viable, or for that matter desirable. STC were clearly inept at running a profitable holiday park, that why the vista complex runs at a loss. There is a lot of potential there, which I am sure has been spotted by Darwin. Many holiday parks have very good owners facilities alongside 5* facilities for holiday visitors and also make a very good profit. We must have change - lets think positive - it will be for the better - SBV will look more like a holiday park than a retiement complex, the vista complex more upmarket spa than municipal working mens club and the owners will benefit from that just as much as Darwin investors. Thats the kind of "customer service" I like the sound of and is only likely to happen if the relations between management and the owners association is a good deal more cordial than in the past!!

Anonymous said...

Happycamper, I couldn't agree more!

The only thing I would add is that good relations work both ways. I have had too many civilised conversations with the general manager and ceratin staff who have disparaged the owners - especially certain ones. Perhaps this is understandable due to unfortuante past occurances but it is not professional. If I were in Darwin's shoes I would insure that the employees they have retained from the STC days learn good customers relations - the Darwin way.

As far as I am concerned the angst from the days of STC are past and I look forward, but I am not so sure this has been taken on board by several staff.

Darwin needs to address this. Perhaps they will realise this and have a change of management at the park once the inital teething period ends. There is too much of 'old Swanage' in the way the park is run - you may know what I mean. The park needs more experience from beyond Swanage to find the right balance for the park's new character.

happycamper said...

Anonymous, you are right! Its a big jump from municiple plodding to modern business practice, especially in the leisure industry. Im sure there will be quite a few casualties - some will go gratefully, others will need to be pushed.
Interesting times!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, interesting times or, as John Lennon wrote:

'Strange times, indeed'!!

I agree with the previous post and I sincerely hope that, as soon as the initial TUPE negotiations are settled, and the transfer of accounts are concluded next month, Darwin will replace the Park Manager with one of their own people. Someone with knowledge of the modern leisure industry, not with just a background in a small, family run park in Sandford. Someone with vision and leadership abilities, not someone who manouvres behind the scenes with one or two members of staff to create a little power base which has absolutely no hope of moving the Park forward as a viable, investor-owned business.

(Does any owner disagree with this assessment?)

This would instantly instill confidence in Owners because the link with the past - STC and the difficult tendering period - all of 2009 - will be past, and we can all move forward. At the moment, whenever I enter the Vista, I sense a tension and disguised hostility and suspicion from the staff, despite the fact though I have always been civilised and pleasant, even when discussing issues and the odd complaint. In fairness, some of the staff have been most helpful and pleasant. But things are far from 'right' at the moment, and Darwin must be told this, not by any association, but from individual owners, in a polite and businesslike way. We all want this to work for the best, after all, as we (owners and Darwin investors) are stakeholders. Individuals, especially employees, cannot be allowed to perpetuate the bad events of the past year. The same goes for the Association.

Here's a suggestion. If Darwin installs a first rate manager with outstanding customer-relation skills, who creates a means by which individual owners have a correct and legal manner of complaint and redress for legitimate issues, according to good practices and the terms of the license; and the Owners' Assocation disbands in favour of the means by which individuals can address issues in a reasonable manner (call it an 'Owners' Charter'), then we can move forward as responsible adults and not as baying sub-group of owners nipping at the heals of a holdover-management with little or no customer relation skills.

Seems a grown up answer. Attack it if you wish! But be warned - the truth sometimes hurts.

Happycamper said...

Sounds good to me! An excellent recipe for new beginnings!!!
Did anyone find out what was said at the infamous meeting last week?
Silence is deafening at the moment - from all sides. Lull before the storm??

Anonymous said...

The Association was only formed because of the greed of the Council. They thought their word was law. It wasn't. Our licence is what governs our position. Disband? I think the 230 odd owner members would not agree. If Darwin meet the Assoc, stick to our licence and get rid of present management then we will all be happy.
As at least one person said to them at the meeting " we would like the park to return to the happy place it was 2 years ago" Not really too worried if they improve the place as long as they don't expect us to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8.20:

What is your proposal for the future? More of the same? Please come up with some positive suggestions that reflect the new reality.

You cite the reasons for the creation of the Association was the behaviour of Swanage Town Council. I grant you that point. But that was then....this is now. Darwin is in charge, not STC. What does the Association propose? More 'OFT 734' and 'Para 15'? Those points are covered in law, as far as the law defends those regulations. I seem to recall that OFT did nothing for you regarding the Association's assumption that it (the Association, on behalf of the Owners) had to be consulted about the change of ownership. No such thing happened. The Park was sold and the Association was silent.

If Darwin tries something illegal I will personally seek legal redress as an owner, not through the Association but through a London firm of barristers. I have done this before. I have the means to do so. That is, if it is deemed there is a case. It will be my barristers against there's - not some solicitor's advice over the back yard fence.

I suspect Darwin will take legal advice and comply with the law. No investors will stand for the sort of nonsense. They will expect a sound business to be established with immediate effect.

The Association should establish a legal fund if they feel they have a case. Strange how your 230 members don't stump up 100 quid each to do this. If I act as an individual, I will do so only if my legal team see a case, and I will retain any legal costs I win. But I will only proceed if I see a viable case.

If Darwin operates withing the law and regs of OFT - as I suspect they will - then I will not have a case and will not procede. If they breach the regs and laws and in so doing materially harm my interests, I will act through the courts. In this situation, one owner acting independently could pose a greater threat to any misdemeanors committed by Darwin than the Owners' Association.

That is the new reality. Create a legal fund if you want the teeth to challenge them. Otherwise, rely on OFT to come to your aid, which they have demonstrably failed to do over the past 10 months. Perhaps OFT's interpretation of OFT 734/Para 15 varies from yours?

Anonymous said...

'Not really too worried if they improve the place as long as they don't expect us to pay for it.'

Who then do you think will pay for improvements? Darwin? I think not.
Who paid for the revamp of the Vista?
The Owners, through site fees. Who pays for the loss-making pool used by the public? Once again, the Owners. How can you think for one moment that any improvements to the site will NOT be paid for largely through site fees?

Remember, in addition to running costs, salaries and wages, and improvements, Darwin has to pay its investors through dividends or another means. It seems unlikely fees will remain as they are, but time will tell. They may do so for a year or two.

Anonymous said...

If they do a realy good job of the Vista, Food etc; In time it might make a profit

Anonymous said...

Unlikely, unless the entire customer base changes. As somebody cited earlier in this blog, SBV clients are older, more residential holiday makers, who do not rely upon the Vista bar and restaurant as much as letting holiday makers do. Both facilities compete with a number of pubs and restaurants in Swanage, and the Vista is removed from the hustle and bustle of the town.

An acquaintance of mine who owns several McDonald franchises has looked at the Vista and determined that its location suits only the Park and immediate neighbourhood, during the high season and weekends. It can never achieve profitability unless the Park attracts a larger number of letting holiday makers throughout the year.

Anonymous said...

Interesting - Darwin has not listed SBV on its website under 'Properties' or 'News'.

Perhaps SBV is not up to their standards? This bodes well for the future - big changes are coming.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that new license agreements will be sent to all owners next week? Also isn't Nov. 1 the date when any fee increases have to be announced? Anybody know any more?

Anonymous said...

You mean 1 Dec....three months before fees for the next year commence. Right?

Happycamper said...

You bet the entire customer base needs to change. At the moment the park resembles a retirement park, especially outside of high season!! If Darwin stay true to their published business intention - to attract a "Kate Moss at Glastonbury" type of crowd - this will happen quickly. A holiday park makes money in three ways. From owners site fees, from letting fees and from retail sales. The latter two are woefully unexploited at the moment. If Darwin are to succeed in attracting their target crowd they will have to invest in improving the facilities ++ and increasing the letting fleet. We have already come to that conclusion ourselves earlier in the blog. The target crowd have plenty of disposable dosh and there plenty of them around. ( ever studied the folk in the Bankes Arms or the Square and Compass?) The sooner Darwin attract them onto the park the sooner they can provide a good income and keep our site fees down. Bring it on!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Happycamper, I think you and i should write a business plan for Darwin!

Frankly, however, the last few years have worn down my enthusiasm for the park, and for Swanage. I have tried to be positive and civilised but there is only so much one can take - and a lack of information from either owner over the past nine months has been too much to bear. Hence my caravan has been for sale for a number of months - two of which it could not be sold because the Town Clerk stopped all sales. Now it is listed again at a fair price but no marketing is going on (except for a listing sheet in the window) despite my attempts to get some action. For their inaction as broker, Darwin will still expect 15% of the sale price. The caravan sales shop is locked; no one is available much of the time to deal with inquiries (I have been in the Vista when people have been turned away because no one could answer their questions) and the park's website is down. Any emails sent to the addresses listred will not be answered - they do not go to the Vista office but to Darwin in London.

Frankly, if Darwin wants to buy me out at a fair price, I am prepared to negotiate. Apparently Darwin will only let owner's vans that meet their 'Kate Moss' expectations - caravan over five years may not qualify. Basically, all of the expectations we were led to believe with Nick Pierce moved us in a flock of new owners is out the window. Our bad luck.

You and I have also hoped that Darwin would do a better job than STC - hardly a high hurdle to jump! Well, to date that is not the case. Gym - closed by Darwin untl when? News about what is happening? None. A new broom in customer relations? Not yet. Even the coffee machine in the Vista has been broken for a month now. The Darwin 'style' has yet to be seen. It is all still STC in style. When, oh when, will Darwin get to work?

Meanwhile, I have been informed that new agreements will be mailed out tomorrow. I presume this means new licenses. That should get the Owner's Association something to do! Para. 15 is not on the new model license! Perhaps this will be the first foray into changes that Darwin will make.

Anonymous said...

Kate Moss crowd? Who are they kidding?

Approached through a council estate on the road to a dump. Do Darwin’s really want drugs on the site? The crowd at The Banks Arms can afford to buy property in Sandbanks and Studland and have the freehold not a licence for 15years.

They expect service, not to spend their time gardening and walking 2/3rds of a mile to dispose of rubbish. First sign of a bit of bad weather they will be off it won’t be a retirement site it will be a ghost town.

The present owners might be a bit older but they pay their bills and look after the site.
Families might rent vans at reasonable prices, but only during school holidays and if you have kids you don’t want disco’s all night.

Darwin hasn’t even got E Mail, The council took it away and I expect the web site as well. Good forward planning.

Anonymous said...

Reception have told me that Darwin has control of the website and is unable or unwilling to update it. Many or all of the email addresses it lists are inoperative (because they belong to STC) or they go to Darwin HC in London where they appear not to receive a response. The SBV office email address is non-responsive - they can be reached only by phone or fax. Reception staff claim that they have no more idea of what Darwin is doing than we do.

Hence the sale dept. of SBV is unable to update caravans for sale. Some may be sold or under offer; others 'for sale' may not be on the website.

I think the 'Kate Moss' reference made by Darwin applies to an aspiration than a reality - and I am convinced that Darwin will have to develop a larger hire fleet business to succeed - just look at its other sites for evidence of this. The alternative is to leave the park as it has become - i.e. mainly for owner/users, not letting - and increase the fees while reducing services and cutting staff - since the Vista is the drain on any budget. If we, the owners, want a better park without swinging increases in fees, then IMHO we will have to accept a larger hire fleet to make this financially viable for Darwin. To create two zones - a lettings zone and an owners'/users' zone - would seem a good way forward, but some of us - including me - may have to have our caravans moved to another site.
I would accept this under the terms of the present license.

Drug use ? Read your license. Any illegal activity will terminate the license or hire agreement and Police will be informed.

Darwin's letterhead states that '' is the contact email address.
The Darwin email address is ''. They do not respond to emails from the first, nor are these received in the Vista, so I am told; I haven't tried the second.

For your interest, here are Darwin's Executive Directors' addresses:

Anthony Esse, Chief Executive - ''

Victoria Brannen, Chief Investment Officer - ''.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post.

I just made a Whois enquiry about the ownership of the domain name ''

Here it is:

Domain name:

Alan Leeson

Registrant type:

Registrant's address:
Town Clerk, Town Hall
High Street
Swanage, Dorset
BH19 2NZ
BH19 2NZ
United Kingdom

So Alan Leeson, on behalf of STC, still owns this site. Legally anything stated on it is 'owned' by him/STC, not Darwin. I wonder if this is legal, insofar as the site contains advertising media as well as certain legal claims? Darwin should either legally buy the domain name, and hence ownership, or Alan leeson/STC should close the domain and its contents.

Ownership of domain names is one of the first things that is legally sorted and transferred when a business acquires another.

Perhaps owners should take this lapse under consideration when assessing just how professional Darwin's operations are?

Anonymous said...

After reading 10.26's comments I went to the front desk at the Vista to relay it's message. They said they would relay this to both Darwin and STC, who collectively should either transfer ownership of the domain, or close that website (and open their own, as they have for other parks). Seems that is a dead - irrelevant - website ATM. The front desk confirmed they are not receiving emails ATM via info@sbv.

Hence emails routing through that website, such as, will go nowhere (I presume they go to STC's server). This is the email address listed on Darwin's letterhead. Not good.

Why do the owners have to do Darwin's - and STC's - work for them? This is not a good sign of what lies ahead - I hope I am wrong!

Happycamper said...

To be fair, I dont think Darwin have had much time yet to implement changes!! Who would be the first to complain I wonder, if there were builders everywhere and caravans being moved around? I suspect we might see some action during the closed time, in preparation for next season.
There are a lot of folk around happy to spend money for a weekend or short break in an area where they dont want to buy. Look at the folk who fill Swanage for the ever increasing number of themed weekends.
I know Sandford site (not a million miles away) had a weekend for Harley Davidson owners very recently. Apparently the site was full to overflowing with people spending money in the bar and restaurant. HOG owners are not generally short of a bob or two and enjoy spending it. They are just one example of many. They are not bothered about rubbish disposal because they dont eat and drink in their caravans, they are more interested in good beer, music and food and are prepared to pay for it. I dont think drugs are generally compulsory and the echo has not been full of stories of raids, so I dont think they feature highly. Unless, anonymous, you know better...........

Anonymous said...

HOG groups have as much exposure (or lack thereof) to drugs as any other affinity group on a jolly!

My point about Darwin is that they are not communicating with owners. I have asked several important questions at the front desk which they haven't been able to answer because Darwin won't tell them what they need to know or what they are allowed to say. Even as answer such as 'sorry - we don't know as yet' is better than silence.

Good communication costs nothing. Even drip-feeding managed 'good news' to owners is better than nothing and often dispels rumours. I wonder if Darwin is even aware that the front desk folks cannot answer questions such as 'will 2010/11 fees be announced on time'; 'will Darwin issue new licenses'; or 'will Darwin continue the letting scheme for private owners'. Questions such as these are very pertinant and important and should be answered quickly. By the way, the front desk folks can answer none of them.

Dear Happycamper, does my point seem unreasonable? You must be a person of means to not show interest in such matters, or in possession of a generous spirit, or are perhaps a mole for Darwin, if indeed that is the case?!?

Anonymous said...

Shhhhh............don't tell anyone but.....if Darwin doesn't announced proposed fees for 2010/11 by midnight tonight, then they will not have given the three months' consultation period required by the license agreement. The new fees come into force annually on March 1st.

Does this lapse mean fees will remain unchanged, or will the three month 'clock' begin from the date those fees are proposed, giving us a few free days, or more?

Maybe they think they don't have to observe our licenses since STC signed them. Ho ho - that's wrong - each license is between Swanage Bay View and the Owner of the caravan.

This will be interesting...stay tuned. Methinks skullduggery is afoot.

Anonymous said...

Darwin did not make the deadline to announce the 2010/11 site fees. Therefore they must remain
£2461.29+£369.19 VAT Payable on or before March 1st. There are also local rates which are £181.82 giving a total for the whole year of £3012.30.

Anonymous said...

The agreement on fees agreed with STC is core fee plus or minus RPI which currently is –1.4%. Darwin must adhere to this. So they do not stay the same as last year.

Anonymous said...

Even better! Poster 9.52 AM - did you receive a letter from Darwin today? I haven't.

happycamper said...

Ha Ha Anonymous - No, no mole for Darwin, I am as interested as you in how things will turn out. I prefer to hear news direct from Darwin, so there is no question of its accuracy. I am not overly interested in the opinions of the reception staff. I am optimistic enough to hope no news is good news and its looking good for fees for next year. (no, I havent got a letter either!!)
It seems likely that Darwin will want to develop a good income from their own letting fleet and retail sales before risking a mass exodus of existing owners. That should give us some breathing space to see how the site is changing ( it certainly will change - big time)and decide whether it is for us or not.
I am lucky enough to have a busy life away from SBV so am happy to wait for developments. If I need to go into battle I will, but for the moment I will stay thinking positive and enjoy the ride!!!!

Anonymous said...

Good for you, HappyCamper! But it is all intriguing, don't you think? It keeps me warm on a cold December night at SBV.....!

RPI for October appears to be -0.8%; I wonder if they will work by CPI, not RPI, or some average figure? CPI appears to be in positive figures. I guess it is up to the standards set by trading standards. It is not a huge enough difference to lose sleep over.

I still can't get my head around how the Vista can become a profitable restaurant/bar venue. The sooner it does, the less our fees will have to support its losses. Heard on the Beeb today that JD Wetherspoon is expanding big time - maybe Darwin could franchise the site to them - their name may pull the punters in from all over the region - maybe not. Just a wild thought. JD Wetherspoon has the nous to suss out the feasibility.

I wish Darwin could get back the bowls and opera sites - what a great indoor gym/play area that would be for us and the town. I would love to play badminton there! Swanage desperately needs wet weather facilities.

Wouldn't it be good if the owners' association did things like arrange social events, bridge groups, dances, trivia nights and the like, so we can find enjoyment in our time at the park rather than be embroiled in controversy at every turn?

I join you in your hope for happier times ahead!

Happycamper said...

Brrrrrr - bet SBV is chilly tonight, was bad enough at the weekend!!!
You are right to suggest the owners association find something to do to occupy their time now they are redundant. Not sure about trivia nights and bridge tournaments though. My taste runs more towards Motorhead and Beer Festivals - which brings us back to JD Wetherspoons.........

Anonymous said...

Sounds good to me - I'd like to get nearly local lad Billy Bragg up here for a good night of old fashioned protest music too to purge the last of my rebellious nature!

And a pint or two of Old Thumper...!!

Anonymous said...

If you were a member of the BVOA you would know there is a social secretary. Stop trying to side line the Association. If you can do better get to it!!!

Anonymous said...

There is a social secretary? Great! Tell me all the events I have missed since September. Might join up!

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to book anything when the email doesn't work, letters are ignored and reception say they don't know anything. We had to cancell our Christmas meeting. A get together - mulled wine mince pies etc because noone replies to any form of correspondance.

Anonymous said...

Having maligned the Town Clerk in writing; having insulted the Park Manager by deliberately failing to refer to her by her correct title; having instigated a serious police enquiry into the actions of the Reception staff regarding post :: Is it any wonder why they do not have any particular desire to communicate with the 'Owners' Association' which is only a subset of all Owners?

I am certain if any Owner made a request to hire the Vista, they would be accommodated. Did it cross your mind to pick up the phone or have a member pop in to arrange it? I have used both means of discourse and have found the reception staff to be accommodating and professional.

Civility opens doors, and will achieve a healthier working relationship with the new Park Owners than the abhorrent behaviour exhibited in the past year or so - yes, on both sides.

I will say it again:

'That was then; this is now."

happycamper said...

I couldn't agree more !!!! It doesnt sound as if this social secretary could organise a piss up in a brewery!!!! Our workplace christmas do was booked and planned back in august - why on earth did the owners association leave it so late to organise theirs? They cant blame Darwin for that.
Incidently, it would have been a nice festive gesture if ALL the owners had been invited to a Christmas get together (would have been a chance to sign up new members too)

Anonymous said...

A letter
A phone call
and a visit from a lady who has more manners than you. Any of the association meetings are open meetings. Any one can come. We booked back in April????

Anonymous said...


Oh dear. Temper, temper! Are you a member of the Owners' Association committee? If so, I am surprised that you stoop to an ad hominum attack. On second thought, no I am not! Now who lacks manners?

On second thought, you cannot be a committee member. 'We booked back in April????'. It is common knowledge that the old management would not accept any bookings for events after October 15th. With whom did you book this? Certainly not with Darwin.

I would very much like to know with whom you discussed this booking recently - by phone or in person?

All that aside, in past years SBV has hosted a Christmas wine and mince pie party for all owners. As yet I have heard nothing about this from Darwin.

Anonymous said...

It was BVO who hosted the party. And that is not temper that is fact, she has better manners than me aswell! I don't think you are an owner at all.

There is a rumour Leeson has gone.

Anonymous said...

'why on earth did the owners association leave it so late to organise theirs? They cant blame Darwin for that.'

Yes they can. Or at least they can blame STC. STC placed a moratorium on all bookings until Darwin took over in mid-October.

Thing is, who will come down to the Park for any social event this time of year, at short notice, what with things going on at their homes? Haven't most owners closed for the season? Somebody said as much in an earlier post on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Where did you hear that Alan Leeson has gone? Do tell. If true, I am sure all readers of this blog would be interested - not just those with an interest in SBVHP. If not true, it should be squelched in fairness to him.

Anonymous said...

And yes, I am an owner.

Anonymous said...

What ever happens be fair to him!! I gather that is the rumour going round the site. As you get on so well with everyone perhaps you could ask?

Anonymous said...

What is the matter with you lot up at the caravan park? What business of yours is it whether our Town Clerk has resigned or not?

He has nothing to do with you now, and you have nothing to do with him. Why are you so obsessed with your personal vendetta? I don't think any of us in town want to associate with the likes of you if your committee or whatever it is called still attacks our town and its officers when some company now owns your park. Attack it if you have to attack something.

I heard some of you somehow got on our electoral role (I think I read it in STC minutes). How did you do that? You can VOTE in our local affairs?? How can you do that if you have no fixed address in Swanage anyway?? I thought your postal address at the park had been taken away??

Well, if it is true that some of you can vote in our local elections, then maybe you should put up (or shut up) and run for Town Council. There's a vacancy due to the death of one of our councilors (who do it for free). Run. See just how many votes you get from the voters of Swanage.

Make even greater fools of yourselves. What I have read on this Swanageview blog from you lot makes me hope the new owners - whoever they are - read it too while they work out how to sort you lot out. It's clear that all your owners don't back the shenanigans that you lot have carried out recently. We saw your leaders 'perform' at town meetings; we even know their names; they are in town hall minutes.

Enjoy our town if you chose to come here, or stay wherever you come from. That's all I have to say.

Anonymous said...

"Oh dear. Temper, temper!"

I am in favour of freedom of expression and information.

Anonymous said...

10.54..... well put!!!!!!!!.

Anonymous said...

Who is 10.54?

Methinks you mean 10.56?

Anonymous said...

9:06 AM............ SORRY!

Anonymous said...

Let's wait for the Council to make any announcement (if there is to be one).

Seems it is their business, and the people of Swanage, and not the owners up at Swanage Bay View.

People get hired, stay on, retire, resign and so on. What's the point of mentioning it here - except some desire for a vicarious thrill or the frisson of pleasure at the expense of others?

Anonymous said...

Let's talk about something useful.

I have spoken with the park management about my frustration that the park's website is locked (and emails don't work); that used caravans are not being marketed (since August, by the way - there are 20 listed for sale) and that we have heard nothing about whether or not Darwin will continue to manage the letting of private caravans.

At their request, I am preparing a list of questions to be faxed tomorrow to Darwin and have been offered a chance to discuss these points with a representative of Darwin next Monday.

If any owner has any questions connected with these topics, let me know and I will add them to the list. Otherwise I will ask these from my own perspective as both one who lets and has his caravan on the market.

Happycamper said...

Well done Anonymous - clearly if management are approached politely and reasonably then communication is possible!
As for Anonymous 9.06 yesterday - I am lost for words!!! you are right - all the owners DO NOT back the actions of certain commitee members. Heavens only knows what they are thinking, or what their agenda is? Personally I have a caravan on SBV because I have love Swanage and enjoy spending time in the town. I shop in the town, eat and drink in the pubs and restaurants and support the various weekend festivals and the steam railway. I am sure I am not alone among the owners in thinking this way.
I have been accused of trying to sideline the association - too right!! I am sure in the past they have been invaluable to the park, but their recent behaviour has brought all our names into disrepute and acheived nothing. They have made no attempt to canvass the views of ALL of the owners but have the brass cheek to claim to speak for us all, both to management, and it seems, to Swanage as a whole.
Time to retire gracefully I think!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

HappyCamper - I agree with you. In fairness, I have to credit the association with challenging the double accounting that the Council tried to pull off in past years (though it was the District Auditor who forced the Council to refund the money they overcharged. The Town Clerk was being too clever on this and other issues, but that was then.....).

Before we throw the baby out with the bath water, I think there may be a need to have an association for ALL owners, partly for social reasons, but for the occasional moment when advice on legal and similar matters is needed. An example: I have picked up from the staff at SBV that new agreements are about to be sent to owners by Darwin. That can be one of two things - new park rules, or new licenses (or both). Owners need factual advice and information about the implications of the latter before signing. I, for one, will readily sign the same license I currently hold, with the only changes being the date and Darwin's name in place of STC's. The new model license appears to have some changes to my original license that I am not so happy with, and I need to learn more about it, and my options. I need to find out whether or not Darwin can cancel the old licenses, without issuing a like-for-like new one. The new model one is supposedly approved by the BH&HPA (park owners' association) and Trading Standards. I want to learn more about the latter's 'approval' first. I suspect it is a question for me to place with Dorset Trading Standards. I think I will contact them about this today. Forewarned is forearmed! I will report back if I learn anything from them.

Returning to my original point, I am not averse to an Owners' Association per se, but it has to include all owners, and it must operate in a more diplomatic way. Rants, accusations and name calling are so 'fourth-form playground behaviour' that I want nothing to do with it. I think that many of my neighbours at the park agree with me on this. Let's focus, as a group, or singly, for the moment on the subject of any new 'agreement' that may soon hit our doormat. Everything else will follow from that issue, including the matter of 2010-11 site fees, the announcement for which is four days overdue!

happycamper said...

That all sounds perfectly reasonable Anonymous. An Owners Association which operates in an adult professional manner and represents ALL the owners is what we need. We should be sitting around a table with Darwin formulating a vision for SBV we are all happy with.
If we have issues with the new licence agreement it must be very carefully handled. Darwin needs to know that we will not just agree to anything they throw at us but also that we are reasonable adults who are open to positive change. I suspect there will need to be give and take on both sides, but to have any hope of success we must work together.
I will be very interested to hear what you find out and also the outcome of the meeting with Darwin on monday. (anonymous 12.49)
Interesting times!!!

Anonymous said...

DING DONG- Heidi Hi campers!

Happycamper said...

Idea to ponder over the weekend......
I am sure at least one of you anonymous posters is an owners association member so could put this to the commitee. Between now and the end of the season is a vitally important time to get ALL the owners together to agree a mission statement and discuss the new licence and 2010 fees. I think all the owners are unsettled at the moment so would be inclined to attend. It can be combined with an end of season social jolly to sweeten the pill. Obviously, whatever we may think of the association, they are best placed to organise this.
The excuse "Darwin wont let us" wont wash. A venue on the park obviously is first choice but if it is unavailable (for whatever reason) there are plenty of other venues in the wider Swanage area.
How about it Owners Association ? Will you rise to the occaision???????

Anonymous said...

HappyCamper - you provide an interesting challenge - actually, a multifaceted challenge. The venue is easily resolved. If the Committee wants, I will negotiate a day\time of their choosing with the Site Manager. There are one or two venues in two that can be hired.

Finding a date that will 'work' for as many members as might wish to come is tricky at this late stage, but is not insurmountable.

The most challenging issue you propose is how to make it possible for the association to be representative of all owners. Owners have had over two years to join. Many have, and are still members. Some chose not to join, for a variety of reasons. Some moved away. Others joined but have not renewed. Others have left because they had reasons to do so. Thus the Association does not represent all owners. You be the judge whether this is a good, or bad thing. The only solution to this I can see is to wind up the association and form a new one that has Darwin's cooperation, that automatically includes all owners, and is funded by Darwin from site fees. Can't see that happening. So notifying everyone about a meeting is tricky as so few come on site this time of year. STC and Darwin (I assume) will not allow the association a list of owners' details, nor will they forward information to Owners from the Association so long as the Association is a subset of the group of owners. This has been requested before and has happened only once, when a meeting of Owners was tabled to propose an owners' bid for the park a year ago October.

So, while I think yours is a good idea, I cannot think how it can be arranged. I am not on the committee, so I don't know what dialogue (if any) they are having with Darwin. Repeated requests for the most basic information from the site manager or staff is unavailable because, it is claimed, that the staff have been told very little about Darwin's plans.

Meanwhile, the silence down here at the park is deafening........

We should have been issued with notification of next year's fees last Monday. Nothing. New licenses to replace the old? Nothing. Letting scheme for next year? Nothing. These are the questions I plan to ask Monday, on site, when a Darwin member is here, if I have to sit in the Vista all day. I have sent these questions to Darwin in writing, so they will have a chance to postulate a response. They are all utterly reasonable questions.

Finally, for anybody who let their caravan through STC's letting scheme this season, the final accounts will not be sent on time (Nov 30) because the Auditor has to vet them. So STC told me.

Happycamper said...

Mmmm , I do see the problem. In my innocence I thought the association would have a list of owners on the park. Without one, how can they hope to recruit new members or canvass opinion on anything? (perhaps best not to go there) I suspect you are right to assume Darwin would not part with a list of details or forward any communication. However I suppose it cant hurt to ask!
I agree the best option would be to wind down the existing association and replace it with one Darwin would recognise. Not sure I can see Darwin funding it though, that may be step too far !! What happens on their other parks I wonder? Perhaps, if things go well on monday and your other questions are answered, you might be able to find out?

Anonymous said...

It is unlikely that SBVOA, which represents more than 80% of the caravan owners, will disband at the request of about 1% of caravan owners.

Anonymous said...

First time looking at this blog and feel compelled to say that it's hard to believe some of the comments on here. Doesn't the fact that there is such a lack of information tell you something? The council ran the park like some kind of fiefdom and Darwin's silence only confirms my suspicions that they are exactly what they say they are: an investment company who wants as little as possible to do with the day to day running of the park as possible. You're naieve if you think otherwise.

All these comments criticising the association are out of order. I'm a member and have benefitted from what the committee have done on our behalf. Without them we'd be paying pitch premiums and still forking out for double recovery. You've had the benefit of that without being members, but it seems all you want to do is snipe. Instead of posting speculative and frankly naieve comments on here, why not join the association and benefit from the good advice its committee has offered its members in the past? And has it ever occurred to you all that those who try and paint the association in a bad light (as the council did) are the ones who have the most to lose by its existence? That's because it tries to call those who get it wrong to account. You should consider that fact that over 80% of owners have decided, like me, to join the association. Doesn't that tell you something? And for the record, the association has always been open about its numbers and never tried to say it represents ALL the owners (just most of them).

Finally, I couldn't help but have a laugh at Happy Camper's 11.32 post. Whoever you are, can't you see the irony in criticising the association and then calling on it to help sort out the position with fees? Why not just swallow your pride and join it?

Anonymous said...


Darwin wouldn't have to fund it. Our site fees could fund it. 10 quid is not going to break Darwin's budget - anyway the main expense would be in mailings which Darwin should do anyway. A new, all-member owners association (do we even need that term? Just give each owner a forum to speak as an individual voice) set up in conjunction with Darwin would, by default, be recognised by them. Darwin would have the voice of all owners - on a level playing field. As such, Darwin could have a dialogue with owners about any changes it wants to implement, and how they might improve our situation (for example, how becoming a 4 or 5 star rated site might provide better facilities that would justify any extra site fees). Owners would have a forrum to express their views. This would provide a healthier consultation forum that you described in your last post.

When I approached STC about providing a list of owners' contact details a year ago, they cited data protection/confidentiality as reasons why they could not provide them to me. They were correct. The only body at present that can contact all owners is Darwin. It cannot divulge this information to other bodies.

This is why the Owners' Association, as it stands, has become a flawed organisation since Oct. 15th. Nothing to do with what they have or haven't done - the body is itself flawed because it allows as members only those who choose to pay and join, and Darwin is not obliged to recognise it as STC was. It could be the 'Owners with red hair' or 'Owners who play badminton only' association. It is only a subset of owners, and the 'majority of members factor' carries no legal weight in dealing with a private company (although STC, as a public body, had to recognised it).

Everything I have stated above will be proven wrong IF the Owners' Association is legally recognised by Darwin. That is what they must do first if they want to remain as they are.

I stress however that nothing I have stated impinges on the rights of any individual owner to take any action required to protect his or her rights under existing regulations in line with our license and in particular OFT 734. Somehow I believe that 200 plus owners making individual objections over, say, a new license or site fees would be more effective than one association acting on behalf of 200 owners, if that association is not recognised. In this case, the best role the Association can play is to advise members what to do, in the same was that trade unions advise its members. The Association should not speak for the owners without their permission, and it should not negotiate on behalf of all owners, as it has no legal position to represents all owners. It may be that the adversarial, confrontational style that has been seen over the past two years is what many owners have questioned.

Becoming an advisory body for owners may be the best way forward for the existing Owners' Association for the time being.

Anonymous said...


Please prove me wrong and have the Owners' Association recognised by Darwin as STC did. If so, I will join you. But I wager they will not recognise you, and will play on the fact that you do not represent all owners as the reason that they will not take you seriously.....

..Alternately if they will not recognise you, you can act to advise your membership to act INDIDIVIDUALLY to challenge anythig that you determine, in your collective wisdom, is wrong or inadvisable.

Is this unreasonable? Has the Committee reevaluated its legal position re: Darwin post STC? If so, please post it here so those who are not members may be so advised and may join you.

Anonymous said...


Completely wrong, I'm afraid, about STC being obliged to recognise the association because it is a statutory body. Running a caravan park is not a statutory obligation for a local authority, it is a discretionary one, so it could have chosen whether or not to recognise the association in the same way a private company can do. If you doubt this, ask yourself why STC had a debate in full Council about whether to recognise the Assocation and voted on it. If it was a statutory obligation, the debate and vote would have been unnecessary, wouldn't it?

Overall, you miss the point. As a matter of contract, the licence agreement requires any park owner to recognise a group who wishes to discuss fees where their number is in excess of 51% of the owners. The association meets that easily. And Trading Standards and central government recommend that park owners recognise owners' associations. Darwin will have a hard time from many quarters if they refuse to comply.

Anonymous said...

Please refer to 7c of your existing licence agreement.

SBVOA has a mission statement:
“To represent the shared views of the caravan owners and to work with management to aid the running and development of the Holiday Park to the mutual benefit of caravan owners and the park owner”.

Happycamper, I am a caravan owner and am not unsettled at the moment. SBVOA will provide considered, knowledgeable advice on Darwins proposals.

10.49PM "It may be that the adversarial, confrontational style that has been seen over the past two years is what many owners have questioned."
I have indeed questioned this style of local government shown by STC, a publicly funded body that should be giving best value and serving the electorate. At every level, government should act reasonably and be transparent.

Anonymous said...

Good news. Darwin has to recognise the SBVOA. Funny - the Park Manager says this is not the case, Darwin will never recognise SBVOA.

Something or someone has to give. Any suggestions? (No names, please!).

As for me, every day that passes and Darwin remains silence, is another step away from believing they are 'a good thing'.

One more thing - back a few posts - 11.32 - whatever else Happycamper has a right to his or her view. If you are speaking for the Association, I suggest that paragraphs such as your last one does you no good. If you speak as an individual, ok, I guess.

There you go SBVOA. Tell us when you are recognised by Darwin just as STC recognised you. Tell all owners when that happens, and invite everyone to join. Then we can stop the sniping and act unified to get Darwin to place its cards on the table!

Anonymous said...

Just to say the new licence that darwin are trying to force on us has a covering letter that states "we recognise there is a strong owners association at Swanage Bay View and that individuals may prefer to be contacted via the association" that to me means they have or are going to reconise to owners association full stop.

Happycamper said...

Where shall I start? - Anonymous 10.34, I was not suggesting the association step in "to sort out the position with fees" just that they call a meeting for ALL owners, something they have not been keen to do in the past and evidently are not keen to do now.The only reason I suggested they be involved was because time is of the essence and it seemed the quickest solution!
Anonymous 2.06 - Heaven help us if you think the recent behaviour of the association is in line with that mission statement!!!! why are you bringing STC into it? They are nothing to do with SBV now. Methinks you may be one of the people involved in the "shenanigans" in the council meeting so eloquently commented on earlier. If you have no permanant address in Swanage what business is STC of yours (or ours)?
Finally 11.45 - It sound as if you have seen the new licence and covering letter???? Perhaps you would like to share it with us in full and not just the edited highlights from your perspective. If it is worded as you say I shall be contacting Darwin to point out that I would NOT prefer to be contacted via the association as I have no confidence in the associations ability to impartially communicate. I suspect I would not be the only one!

Anonymous said...

yes 12.26 you have a choice so do all owners but some of them may not be able to for various reasons and may want the association to deal with it on there behalf. as far as i know all the association meetings are totally open and anyone could attend member or not but if you feel you are able and willing to contest things direct with darwin, no problem good luck.

Anonymous said...


You say you have no confidence that the assocation will communicate impartially; are we to take it then that you think Darwin will? The letter accompanying the new licence doesn't inspire much confidence, I have to say. It offers us a new licence, but doesn't even bother to explain how it differs from our current one. That's hardly a good and transparent start, is it? I will not even consider signing the new licence until someone explains the changes to me. It's common practice for companies to set out the changes when contracts are varied (e.g. banks, utility companies etc all do it), so why shouldn't Darwin?

Anonymous said...

Is the license you have received the 'new model license' that was concocted between the BP&HPA and OFT?

This whole license saga is confusing. Some posts back it was suggested that somebody refer to Para 7c of the license. My license doesn't have a para 7c that says anything remotely connected to what that person is referring to. Are there different licenses floating around among owners?

Here's a thought - would NACO be able to advise individual owners about the license issue - if the owner is a member of NACO? Might give them a ring when I get my letter from Darwin.

I guess Darwin has to issue a new license but it should be like for like, or more to our advantage, and not deleterious to our interests. Be careful about pitch fee reviews wherever that appears. The new model license is pretty broad. Where does Dorset OFT stand on the issue of new licenses? Anybody know?

Aarrgghh...I'm getting a headache!!

Anonymous said...

Somebody said the whole caravan leisure industry is run like a rogue second hand car dealership (no offense if that's your trade!).

Can't see why Darwin should be trusted without being scrutinized first. They have to make money from us for their investors.

R. Reagan on Gorbachev: Trust, but verify.

Sound advice.

Anonymous said...

Well what happened at your meeting with Darwin? What questions did you ask and what did they say? Dif they turn up?

Anonymous said...

Surprise surprise - they never met with me. They holed themselves up in the Sales Centre all day. As far as I can tell, they didn't meet with the staff either, at least until 4.30 p.m. when I gave up. Seems my letter was sent to somebody at head office, and the people who came down were unaware of it. Or whatever.

That's the problem - Darwin is not communicating with the staff. The staff can't answer any questions about what will change and what will remain the same. Or so that is what I have been told.

At least Darwin has written to some owners about licenses, though I haven't received mine.

I have asked Darwin to answer the points I have raised in writing. I am not holding my breath.

'Trust, yet verify.' Been there; done that.

DampCamper said...


Anonymous said...

Disappointing indeed but I am not too surprised given what we have seen of Darwin so far. They describe themselves as a professional park operator, but a look at their website tells you a different story. They are an investment company which has identified caravan parks as an industry which can give their investors a high return. Personally I think they have identified wrongly. And they have no experience running a caravan park of this size or type.

The new licence they have issued looks to me like the new model licence but with several significant adaptations which benefit Darwin. I will be keeping my current licence (something which Darwin acknowledges I can do in their letter, but tries to say as little about as possible. Sneaky!)

Happycamper said...

Well, well - big fat envelope from Darwin on the mat today. Something concrete to work on at last! Not had chance to read any of it yet, but first impression is its a lot thicker and more detailed than my existing one. Think whoever commented that there might be several different licences in existence was probably right.
Not sure how to interpet Darwins style at the moment.
I suspect SBV is not a big issue in the big scheme of Darwins business. They have a "brand" and intend to mould SBV into it. They may be reluctant to enter into dialogue because they think the licence answers all relevant questions. Does it? Does anyone who has had time to read it have any initial thoughts??

Anonymous said...

Initial thoughts are that Darwin want to enter into as little dialogue as possible. Their version of the licence raises more questions than answers but they attempt to answer none of them. I think that is poor practise. There is no explanation at all, it's just 'here's your licence, sign and return'. Exactly what am I signing up to? We pay several thousand pounds a year for our pitches - I expect a bit more in return.

DampCamper said...

Another day at the park with Darwin sequestered behind closed doors......

I have it on good authority that caravan hiring will be the icing on the cake for Darwin. Look at their other parks on their website. I suspect that means that our site fees will be their bread and butter. I deduce that they will want to expand the number of prime caravans for hire, especially during the high season (late May Bank Holiday through mid-September).

Private vans that they agree to let will be expected to be brought up to Darwin's standards - not too old, with perfect carpet and curtains, and standardised linen/pillows/duvets/crockery (ours will not be accepted). So my six year old caravan will have to have new carpets, upholstery, curtains, plus the standardised items listed above - although everything in it is perfectly acceptable. That would be getting onto 1,500 pounds of expenditure in my case. We haven't seen what management/cleaning and other charges they will deduct from lettings. Expect to see the Vista brought up to 5 stars (new sauna, pukka fitness suite, improved bar, games facilities, kids' facilities, etc. etc.).

That is all from very recent conversations with the site manager. Since Darwin won't tell us anything, I will pass on what I have been told.

I have no clue how privately let owners' caravans will fit into the equation; if you intend to do this check that the new license Darwin has sent still permits this and make sure they don't try to charge you for the privilege. I would suspect Darwin will try to entice the owners of prime caravans to let through them, but not the older ones. After all, they aspire to the likes of Kate Moss staying here!

DampCamper said...

For all Owners who have listed their caravans for sale (20 of you) through SBV:

-There is no copy of the new site license available through the Vista reception or the sales office. Any prospective buyer will not be able to see the terms of the new license.

-The old SBV website is still owned and maintained by STC, not by Darwin, and is hopelessly out of date (and inaccurate). SBV staff are unable to update it. This issue has been raised with STC and SBV/Darwin by an Owner, with no official response or action from them. A number of caravans registered as 'for sale' through SBV/Darwin are not listed as such on this site. It is unknown whether the 14 caravans that are listed on the website are still for sale, sold, or pending sale.

-In effect, Owners, your caravans has not been marketed since late August when the Town Clerk halted their sale due to the pending sale of the park (see September STC minutes). Since the transition of park owners on 15th October, the sales office has been locked (used latterly for Darwin as an office) and the park website has not had sales listings updated (see next item). In other words, no marketing has taken place.

-The SBV website contains email addresses that won't work, or which have been discontinued (some through STC servers) due to the transition of park owners. This means that the only way an interested party can communicate with the park is through telephone or post.

-the 'Frequently Asked Questions' on the SBV website is out of date, listing the 2009/10 site fees, and other claims that may no longer be valid under the new license or Darwin.

Other observations:

-final statements for 2009 lettings is unavailable from STC (they were due Nov. 1) due, so I was told, to a lack of electricity bills and a need for approval from at District Auditor. Those awaiting any surplus will have to wait, to an unspecified date.

-Darwin's website does not list SBV as one of its holdings, which begs the question whether Darwin has been upfront with its investors. Meanwhile, SBV is not being marketed for either caravan sales or the 2010 season, as are its other park holdings.

There is in my view a huge disconnect between Darwin and the Vista staff, leaving owners unable to have any reasonable question answered. We are advised to be patient - apparently Darwin has not realised how big the task of transitioning the park would be.

I suggest owners trying to sell their caravan contact SBV to ask them to get the ball rolling as soon as possible (for which SBV/Darwin charge 15% commission).

DampCamper said...

Sorry - I meant that final statements for 2009 lettings were due Nov. 30th, not Nov. 1st!

Happycamper said...

On first scan this looks like a fairly standard licence. - I have certainly read very similar before.
I will be protesting about the increased fees (it would be stupid not too!!!) as, Im sure, will be many others. Also, since when were water and sewerage services "available at extra cost"??
Dampcamper , I am sure you are right, letting caravans is the icing on the cake for Darwin - and they dont want any competition!! Page 4 - hiring out of the caravan is "voluntary and must be undertaken exclusively through us"
I think keeping their distance and saying very little is a cany tactic. Why waste time discussing things if you dont have to? There will be lots of grumbles but only a small proportion will develop into full blown complaints. An even smaller number will be up for a fight, so you can afford to wait and see how things develop.
I suspect the park isnt on Darwins website because it isnt up to standard and they arent ready to market it yet. They have a plan of action and are quietly implementing it!!

Damp(but drying out)Camper said...

I still haven't received the pack from Darwin. HappyCamper, what is the fee increase, and how do they justify it? And if the new license forbids private lettings except through Darwin, doesn't this contradict past practices (and contravenes what is still on the SBV website) - quote -

"Q. Can we let our mobile home to a third party

A. Yes. You may let through us or privately"

(On SBV website, under Frequently Asked Questions).

They cannot have it both ways - the SBV website should be closed immediately.

The Park is certainly not good enough shape for their website, but a 7.25 million pound acquisition should be publicly stated on the Darwin website for the benefit of present and future investors, unless this investment is not as yet part of the investors' company.

SlightDampCamper said...

HappyCamper - another thought - according to the Site License granted by Purbeck District Council, water and sewer must by part of the provision granted as part of each individual caravan site license, and so must be inclusive in the site fees - in other words, by law water and sewer are not 'optional extras'. What is Darwin on about?

Anonymous said...

Increased costs, charges, no visitors without Darwin's permission, no ornaments in your windows etc etc. Just a few of the changes Darwin want to implement. Save yourself the trouble of protesting by just keeping your current licence. Their letter recognises that we can, and I have been informed that Trading Standards say we all can too.

Happycamper said...

Site fees quoted in Darwins letter are as follows - "Your site fees for the 2010 season are £3113.00 including VAT at 15%. This can be paid in two instalments - half by 15th February 2010 and half by 15th June 2010.or should you wish to pay in full by 31st December 2009 then there will be a £50 discount applied to the fee. Rates invoices will be issued separately in March 2010"
Apparently if you would like to sublet in 2010 reception can provide you with a sublet agreement. Should make interesting reading!!!!!!!

AlmostDryCamper said...

Thanks, HappyCamper. Does the fee increase include rates? Reception told me these would be added later when fees are known.

I will ask reception for the sublet info you mention!

My existing license is safely tucked away in a safe deposit box!

Happycamper said...

No, dont think the fees quoted include rates! My existing licence is filed safely too, ready to be point by point analysed alongside the new one. Busy with the day job at mo so that will have to wait for the end of the week. Am pleased you seem to be drying out, perhaps the sun will shine for me in swanage at the weekend - shame the 5* facilities arent available yet.......

Anonymous said...

I am a tad confused over the VAT apparently quoted by Darwin. VAT is 15% until midnight 31 Jan. 2009, after which it reverts to 17.5%. Darwin has quoted a VAT rate of 15% on 2010/11 site fees that do not come into force until after New Years. In addition, the 2010 site fees are only a proposal that can be challenged by owners if 51% or more do this. OK. Will the VAT rate be 15%, or 17.5%? Maybe there is an accountant out there who can answer this (I have not yet received a bill or statement for next year's site fees). Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I meant 31 December in the third line.

Anonymous said...

And let's not forget the add-ons as well that Darwin has left off the proposed fees - business rates, water, sewer, probably parking space, use of pool, views, air we breathe, etc etc. What is Darwin on about? One all inclusive, no nonsense fee please.

I am beginning to miss STC..........just kidding!

Anonymous said...

OOOKKKKK- let's work this out - proposed fees ....3113 inc VAT @ 15%...add say 100 quid each for water and sewer plus VAT @ 15%.....and add business rates (unknown but 182 pounds last year)...erm....erm....that 412 plus 3113..erm...erm 3525 total....erm....maybe a 15% increase??

YIKES! For a park with no promised gym, sauna, shop? How do they justify any increase?

Once they create a 5 star park with amenities, then they can come to us for an increase. So far Darwin is invisible to owners. Nice letterhead, though!


Unless you want to pay Darwin's investors their divvy!

Anonymous said...


Hear Hear! Darwin knew when they took over this park that they can't make us sign up to a new licence. That's the risk they took, so they will just have to live with it if we don't.

Caveat emptor.

Anonymous said...

'This can be paid in two instalments - half by 15th February 2010 and half by 15th June 2010.' - from Darwin's recent letter, with fee increases.

From my license para 7a: 'We must give you at least three months' notice in writing before the Review Date of an increase in the Pitch Fee'.

Well, IMHO they have proposed an increase in the site fee. They have not given three months' notice from the review date in writing. Feb. 15 to three months earlier is Nov. 15th, not Feb 15th to the date of Darwin's letter which is considerably less time.

As far as I am concerned, they have breached para. 7a of my license and they are not due any increase from me. In good faith until this is correctly resolved I intend to pay half the 2009/10 fees by March 1st as I did last year, and in the meantime I will write to object to this increase (and change of terms to my license) as per para. 7c.

I look forward to them taking legal action over this point! I wonder if they threaten owners as somebody else (He Whose Name Cannot Be Mentioned) did last year?

I agree with 7.42 - don't accept the new license unless you are happy to surrender this point. It will cost you a lot of money now, and in the future. You may want a bit of peace after the anxiety of the past two years, but this is materially wrong and must be challenged. Let's get our relationship with Darwin off to a proper and correct start, or they will push our tolerance to the limit.

I am not a member of the Owners' Association but I suspect my way of thinking matches their advice to members.

Anonymous said...

I just re-read the Darwin letter and I don't understand why they required owners to identify ourselves if we are represented by the Association. Is this a way to try to find out who is a member, and who isn't? Why do they need to know this information? Can't a member of the Association also deal with Darwin as an individual owner too? It doesn't make any sense to me, and it is none of their business!!

Anonymous said...

9.30pm (several posts back)

Too right the caravan park industry is run like the second hand car one. Its become clear to me over the past couple of years that its an industry which has largely passed under the radar, with the result that park owners everywhere are not following the licences they have with caravan owners, and its caravan owners who are losing out. I say that its time to change this and make sure that Darwin stick to the terms of our licence. I am rather saddened to see that they haven't so far (espeially after the terrible managagement of the park by STC)so I think we must all make it very clear that we know our rights and not let them walk all over us. We can start by not letting them get away with the non-compliance with our licence that they have already shown.

Anonymous said...

In agree with the previous post.

My apologies for the lengthy post that follows.

A mailing is being prepared to all owners today. In it is a form, to be filled in and returned to Victoria Fooks. It is a ballot-type form on Darwin letterhead with no explanation of its purpose. It reads:

'Appointment of Agent or Representative at Swanage Bay View Holiday Park'

Then there are boxes to be ticket or filled in:

-Tick one: YES or NO : YES: I would like to be represented by my chosen agent/representative/NO: I would like to represent myself.
-If yes, please state your representative here

I am of the opinion that they have no right to require us to comply with giving them this information. If we choose to appoint a solicitor or other agent to operate on our behalf, then that person would so introduce him/herself to Darwin at the initial point of contact.

I suspect the point is to identify those who belong to the Owners' Association. They have no right to this information unless the members mandate the release of their names by the Association according to Data Protection regulations. In any event, the Owners' Association is not in itself able to negotiatiate in lieu of each owner individually; only on behalf all all owners as a group. There is a legal distinction. You can (or not!) be in the Association and you can represent yourself. I have been advised there is no legal reason to return this slip signed; I have been advised not to do so. My rights will not be affected by so doing this.

Should I choose to have a legal representative act on my behalf over an issue with Darwin, then he or she would introduce the legal relationship between us at the first point of contact.

The fact that Darwin would send out this form without any explanation reeks of conspiracy (or stupidity). You decide.

Finally, my personal opinion: Darwin is conspiring to emasculate the Owners' Association by (i) identifying members and (ii) trying to see if fewer that 51% (the majority needed to challenge fee increases) of owners return this slip. Good try.

Please, please, consider what I have written above, whether or not you belong to the association, before you return this slip!

Anonymous said...

I have no intention of returning this 'form', if it is as you say. Darwin have a licence agreement with me and that should be sufficient to govern any communication between us. If at any point I want someone to act as my 'representative' then I will let them know as and when. Otherwise, they shouldn't waste my time with this sort of thing.

Happycamper said...

Personally, I think its important that we DO return the form. Why give Darwin an "excuse" to leave anybody out of any future communications? They may well be trying to see how much support the owners association actually has, but that is not unreasonable and should not be a problem. (Or is the reputation of the association so bad no-one wants to admit to being a member?) Whatever you say on the form it does not positively identify you as a member (or not).
It could work in the associations favour surely???
Anyway, I shall be sending one copy of my form to Ms Foukes, one direct to Darwin and keeping one myself. If I were a member of the association I would be sending them one too, just to guard against any unfortunate misunderstandings.
I shall also be formally objecting to the fees increase and sending that by Royal Mail special delivery (not recorded delivery, thats useless) so receipt can be proved just in case Darwin try to deny receiving it or receiving it too late. Ok - I may be paranoid, but better safe than sorry.
Light blue touch paper and stand well back!!!!!
Incidently I will not be signing the new licence either and will tell Darwin exactly why not. It going to be a fat envelope!

DryButFreezingCamper said...

Hello HappyCamper-

I too will send mine back claiming only that I will represent myself (irrespective of whether or not I belong to the Owners Association, PROBUS, the British Legion or the Mafia....) -

- That is, if they ever send the 30 Nov. mailing to me. Despite repeated entreaties at the Vista desk for a fortnight, nothing has been sent to either my home address or via Vista reception (who requested Darwin to send a copy to them for me to collect). Meanwhile the Vista Reception will not let me view the new license, claiming they don't have it yet. Hmmm. I see copies of it on the desk next to the till. Methinks there is a 'shell game' going on!

Nevermind. My existing license is carefully squirreled away in a bunker under a Swiss mountain, and I ain't signing it away! Happycamper, is it your interpretation (as it is mine) that Darwin has proposed a fee increase without justifying the reasons, which according to our license they have to do (you have the 30th Nov. letter; I don't, so I cannot determine this). At least STC (bless 'em) had the decency last year to send us a letter proposing fees, citing the effective date, and outlining our right to challenge them according to our contract. Did Darwin do any of this in their letter of 30 Nov?

Also, what's with Feb. 15th for the first payment date? The 'effective date' according to our license is 90 days after a fee increase proposal. That's always been March 1 (which is 90 days after the Darwin letter as well). How can they set a payment deadline before the effective date, and before the 90 day challenge period ends? Seems to me they are ignoring this aspect of our license. The mystery deepens!

Anonymous said...

I use the pool at the Vista (I live in Swanage) and when I asked to buy a book of tickets the lady asked me how long it would take to use them and I said about a fortnight and she said oh your alright then. Did she mean that they are going to increase the fees for the pool soon and my book of tickets would not work if the fee goes up?

Anonymous said...

As this thread is becoming the longest in the history of this blog, and as it is about to disappear into the blog's third page, I have asked that a new thread be created - 'Swanage Bay View Transition II'.

When that is opened, I propose we continue our discussions there.

Happycamper said...

You are right DryButFreezingCamper - no attempt was made in Darwins letter to explain or justify the fees increase, just the paragraph I quoted and a sentance about how to pay the fees, all buried away on page 2 of the letter. I think they are testing the water to see how much opposition they get. Perhaps they hope they wont get any - Dream on Darwin!!!!!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Blah Blah blah
How come everyone is anonymous

Oh me too

But I have good reason to be

Unknown said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.
caravans for sales