Caravan owners say they were shocked to be ordered to leave a holiday park for overstaying after being told they could live there for nine months.

Residents were told to leave Steeple Bay Holiday Park for flouting the rules and remaining on site longer than they were allowed to.

Under occupancy rules caravans cannot be lived in during weekdays from November until the end of February so people are only allowed to stay on the site during weekdays between March and October each year.

But owners say they only found this out when Maldon District Council ordered them to leave at the beginning of November.

They told the Standard they had signed contracts with Park Holidays, who run the site, allowing them to stay from March 1 to November 30 each year.

Maldon District Council served a breach of planning condition notice on Park Holidays on November 27.

The firm has subsequently applied to the council to extend its planning permission to include November.

One caravan owner said: “We found out when Maldon District Council officers knocked on our door in November.

“I think that if Park Holidays had held their hands up at the start and communicated with the owners regarding their plans to put this mess right a lot of heartache and bad feeling could have been avoided.

“I just hope this can be sorted out to everyone’s benefit and we can enjoy this lovely park.”

Another owner said: “I found out the contract I signed and the permission Park Holidays UK have from Maldon District Council did not match up in early November when I was handed a letter to leave from Maldon Council.

“I was told legal action may be taken against me if I stayed.”

A spokesman for Maldon District Council said: “The council served a breach of condition notice on Park Holidays, Steeple Bay Holiday Park on November 27 as they had been allowing the occupation of caravans on the site outside of the period permitted by the planning permission.

“The council also issued letters to owners of caravans on the site advising them that they must cease to occupy their caravans during the ‘closed’ period.”

A spokesman for Park Holidays UK said: “The site license has operated during the current season in the way in which it has for many years, including a significant period of time before the business was acquired by the current owners in 2006.

“We are providing every assistance to the council in order to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion.”

The spokesman added the company is awaiting the outcome on the planning application.