Batlow caravan park residents forced out ahead of upgrade

Brian Nolan, grandson of Batlow Caravan Park lessee Penny Nolan, is one of many who will have to move elsewhere due to an impending upgrade of the park.

BATLOW Caravan Park lessee Penny Nolan is devastated about only being given one month’s notice by Snowy Valleys Council to vacate the park for its upgrade.

Those at the park, including permanent residents, have been told to leave by June 30.

The park will shut for six months to allow a $700,000-plus upgrade, after a compliance audit of the park showed the facility did not meet current standards.

It’s not the first time the park has failed to pass a compliance audit, with Tumut Shire Council identifying a raft of problems with the park several years ago, only some of which were fixed.

A prioritised schedule of upgrades for the site has been developed, and will be funded by a NSW government major projects infrastructure grant.

The park will fully close during the upgrade works.

The council needs to finish by December 31 to meet the guidelines of the government grant.

“I was hoping for the courtesy of a few month’s notice, but I was given one month,” Mrs Nolan said.

“It’s downright disrespectful. I was devastated that they only gave me a month.”

She has been the lessee at the park for almost 25 years.

“I have written letters to council over the last couple of years asking them to please consider giving six months notice before upgrade work,” she said.

“Six months might have been a stretch, but three months would have been bloody nice. What I couldn’t handle is that I asked for consideration and got nothing. Now they’re telling us to remove everything out of here.”

Mrs Nolan believes that after she vacates, that will be it for her and the park.

“I won’t get offered the lease,” she said.

“Now I’m hoping desperately to find a house. I’ve got two little grandkids who rely on me. Finding accommodation is a big thing at the moment; it is not going to be easy.”

Mrs Nolan said that the council had known about a toilet block on the park being full of asbestos for about 15 years, but only fenced it off at the beginning of May.

It’s set to be demolished as part of the upgrade.

Billy Gilmore has lived at the park for seven years and feels sad about having to leave.

“I think they (council) should have gone about it in a nice way,” he said.

“Now we need to find somewhere to live.”

The council has said it is working closely with park residents to help rsecure alternate accommodation but Mr Gilmore says little help has been offered so far.

Lynny Brown, a close friend of Mrs Nolan, believes that council giving her such short notice amounts to bullying.

“They are picking on her and bullying her, and I think that is pretty crap,” she said.

The council said it had little option but to close the facility, according to council director Matthew Christensen.

“Due to the extent of upgrades identified in the audit, the Batlow Caravan Park will fully close for the duration of works,” Mr Christensen said.

“Council is working closely with the permanent residents of the park to help secure alternate accommodation”.

Mr Christensen said the audit identified that the park does not comply with current standards, primarily the upgrading required for the amenities building.

The council received $732,000 in grant funding through the NSW Government’s Stronger Communities Infrastructure Fund to upgrade the park.

“Work is scheduled to start in July and the park will be closed for six months while works are undertaken,” Mr Christensen said.

“The funding will be used to upgrade and remediate the park to bring it in line with current standards.  Work includes clean-up of the park, refurbishment of existing amenities, removal of dilapidated buildings, improving roads and fencing.

“Council will also need to assess what additional infrastructure may be required for the park to be operational again.”

Mr Christensen said the council is working with the current lessee to vacate the premises and is also regularly updating the Batlow Development League on the proposed works.

“The council is developing a business case to consider its overall strategy around all council caravan parks and how they will operate into the future,” Mr Christensen said.

“Development of a business case for possible further investment and lease options for Council caravan parks will determine how these assets can be developed into vibrant commercial entities that will support tourism and employment growth in our region.”

Meanwhile, the council will take over management of the troubled Tumbarumba Creek Caravan Park when the current lease agreement ends at the end of June.

Mr Christensen said that while privately owned cabins and assets are being removed or sold by the vacating lessees, the caravan park itself is not closing.

“Council is in the process of appointing an experienced temporary manager to run the Tumbarumba Creek Caravan Park while further improvement works are completed and we consider long term arrangements for the facility,” he said.

“In the meantime it will be business as usual with the new lodges and existing powered and unpowered camp sites still available for booking after June 30”.

“Council’s tourism team are managing the caravan park’s website and bookings throughout the transition to ensure potential guests can make reservations and continue to patronise the park”.