Updated: Sep 20, 2020
Why can’t we just have one nationally agreed standard? We do! I hear you cry. Yes, the Model Standards 2008 for residential parks.
How did we end up with spacing issues in the first place?
Alright, this picture is from a holiday park but it shows a base which has been extended to meet the demand for larger static units. Pinch a bit here and there and you’ve got yourself a spacing issue. It’s not all down to the park operator; I’ve heard many times that EHO’s weren’t overly interested in spacing pre-Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Now, it’s not quite as bad over on the residential side, as the units don’t seem to change that often. However, a few home improvements, spruce up the cladding or perhaps a small extension and we have a spacing breach. In fact, I never really did too much with the residential park side until this snippet was emailed to me shortly after the Grenfell tragedy.
But Pete, where’s the ambiguity?
Okay, let's talk about spacing. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service insist that unit spacing is 6 metres, no ifs or buts. (Fairly straightforward so far). Meanwhile in Torbay; “where a caravan has retrospectively been fitted with cladding from Class 1 fire rated materials to its facing walls, then the separation distance between it and an adjacent caravan may be reduced to a minimum of 5.25 metres”.
So if I have a new unit constructed from Magnesium Substrate with a stipple finish which is graded as Class 0 then can I space the units out at 5.25m? Perhaps, but not exactly. Note the word retrospective, I have seen a newly sited unit constructed of modern fire-resistant material, only to be told to increase the separation distance to 6m as the cladding wasn’t fitted retrospectively.
But then again the Model Standards Explanatory Notes states; “If a caravan has been fitted with cladding from class 1 fire rated materials, then the distance between units may be reduced. However, there is a need for the privacy of residents to be taken into consideration. Health and safety matters, such as the positioning of gas bottles, etc. will also need to be taken into account.”
Hold the phone…does this local authority seem to suggest that units can be spaced at less than 5.25m?!
This isn’t the only issue, of course, reduce the unit spacing down to 5.25 m and it's impossible to fit a 2.4m car parking space between units and achieve the 3m distance required from the space to the adjacent unit.
I’ve also seen a residential park home where one resident sought to improve fire safety by installing fire-resistant cladding; they were stopped by the local authority as the unit was in breach of the 5.25m, despite the argument that these works would improve fire safety.
So that’s as far as I’m going to go with this for now, but I will keep updating this article every two weeks until we have all areas covered.
But what can I do if this is a problem for me now?
Local Authorities were historically prepared to take a reasonable stance on spacing issues but in my experience, they appear to be less willing. To further exacerbate the issue, the interpretation of the Model Standards is entirely dependent on the area. It’s a bit of a postcode lottery but there are some options if you find yourself at the losing end of a battle with the local council.
First I'd recommend having a read of The Mobile Homes Act 2013 – A Best Practice Guide for Local Authority Enforcement on the New Site Licencing Regime.
It has some helpful lines which can be quite influential when dropped into an email:
"Historical spacing issues cannot usually be resolved quickly or easily"
“A sensible approach is to draw a line in the sand; accepting existing contraventions and then put site licence conditions in place that, going forward, are clear and can be enforced.”
Unit spacing to the boundary
The Model Standards 2008 states: “No caravan or combustible structure shall be positioned within 3 metres of the boundary of the site.”
It doesn’t take a lot of acreage before a clear 3m can certainly add up to a lot of empty space. So, you may be excited to hear that the Model Standards do not explicitly state that the 3m spacing is required for fire safety. In fact, the explanatory notes state:
“The 3 metre separation distance inside the boundary serves the purpose of ensuring privacy from whatever is on the other side of the boundary, such as a road, and other developments, such as houses etc.”
To clarify, the measurement is taken from the caravan wall and excludes any eaves, drainpipes and bay windows.
It’s not clear how this decision was reached as the consultation guidance definitely talked about fire safety and boundaries.
“Where the potential threat from fire is minimised, such as when the park is adjacent to fields or water then this requirement can be relaxed.” Revising the Model Standards for Park Homes – December 2005
The above shows that fire safety was a key consideration when it comes to boundaries and spacing. The same document also states:
“If a new licence is to be issued to an existing park it is probable that the boundaries of the park are well established and that to alter the existing licence condition in respect of boundaries would cause unnecessary hardship.”
Finally, with regard to enforcement the revision document also recommends some of the factors that the local authority may wish to take into account include:
1 – What else is in the separation space?
2 – The fire resistance of the home.
3 – Means of escape from the home.
4 – Are smoke alarms fitted in the home?
5 – What is on the other side of the boundary?
If you're really stuck then reach out and give Pete a call on 07834 633178 or email firstname.lastname@example.org