Furious Havant mum is told to stop using her caravan to house the homeless or face a £5,000 fine
A FURIOUS mum is warming up for a legal war against a council after she was told she couldn’t let homeless people shelter in her caravan.
Becky Catchpowle had been helping rough sleepers to brave the winter by offering them a space in her vintage caravan free of charge.
But the 35-year-old is being threatened with court action and a fine of up to £5,000 by Havant Borough Council for her charitable endeavours.
In a shock letter sent to the mum-of-two over the weekend, it was claimed her use of the renovated 1960s vehicle was ‘in breach’ of planning law – despite it being parked on her driveway.
Becky, of Cedar Gardens, denies this and now fears for the future of the one man in his 60s and his dog currently using her caravan.
She said: ‘I’m trying to do a good deed and help someone off the street and now I’m being threatened with a £5,000 fine. It’s absolutely outrageous.
‘It’s the council’s fault this man is homeless in the first place. They haven’t found him anywhere to live.
‘I’m letting him sleep for free while he waits. Now the council want to throw him back on the street.’
The letter arrived on Saturday and came following a complaint from one of Becky’s neighbours.
The caravan is parked on the drive of her property, which she owns, and is regularly used for family holidays in the summer.
But Becky said she didn’t want it to go to waste during the rest of the year and after her efforts to use it as an Airbnb were denied by the council she decided to open it up temporarily for the homeless over the winter.
Now she has less than three weeks until she has to face off against planning officials to fight for the right to use her caravan as a shelter for the homeless.
She added: ‘I’m going to fight this with everything that I have. I won’t be bullied.
‘When you see something wrong is happening, you have to stand up against it. And what the council is doing is just wrong.’
However, one of the authority’s top politicians has said what Becky is doing could be hindering homeless people from getting back on their feet.
Councillor Narinder Bains, who heads the council’s neighbourhood, said: ‘We risk a dilemma of setting up those who are homeless to fail. You can give anybody somewhere to stay but with it has to come with the support to manage them and you can’t get that by staying in a caravan.
‘Everybody has got guidelines to abide by. As much as we wanted to be kindhearted, we have to understand rules are there for a reason. In this case, it’s about safeguarding.’
Natalie Meagher, service director for operations and neighbourhoods at Havant Borough Council, said the authority had contacted Becky about the ‘acceptable usage’ of the caravan and invited her to the authority’s HQ to ‘discuss the matter’.
She added: ‘Should Mrs Catchpowle wish to use the caravan for use as an extension to her property – ie an extra bedroom, with guests having use of the bathroom, kitchen and lounge facilities at the address this would not be an issue.
‘However, we understand that she may not be using the caravan in this way. Since the matter was reported to the council, we have been keen to work with Mrs Catchpowle in trying to resolve the situation.’
Becky claimed that because her caravan has no running water or electricity it is reliant on her home’s own supply and is therefore not a separate dwelling.