Carry on Camping: Campaign to extend 56-day permitted development rights



With foreign travel heavily restricted this year and accommodation rapidly selling out across the country, camping is enjoying a record year: Pitchup's bookings are 200% higher than the same point in 2019. 

Government rules allow 'pop-up' sites to be created for 56 days each year, but the inflexibility of the rule can prevent owners from opening at periods when demand is greatest: for example, 51% of current bookings are for arrival in June or September onwards.

The Carry on Camping campaign is calling on the government to adopt Richard Harwood QC's suggestions to extend the 56-day period to make full use of the weather, to the end of October.


Why pop-ups matter this year

In a normal year, Brits spend nearly three times as many nights holidaying abroad as they do in the UK.* Around a quarter (55m) of domestic nights are spent at the UK’s estimated 13,000 camping and caravan sites, making them the most popular type of domestic holiday accommodation.

The surge in demand is a chance for rural businesses and communities to recover from the pandemic. While it would never be possible (or desirable) to accommodate the entire foreign travel market in the UK, campsites are the only type of accommodation that can be created quickly to capitalise on more of this season's record demand.

Around 600 'pop-up' campsites are opening under 'permitted development' rights, mostly in agricultural communities away from coastal 'honeypots', and last summer around 200 newly-opened pop-ups operated successfully.

As well as providing much-needed capacity, pop-ups are attracting new customers to camping. Many visitors are switching from other types of holiday - one whose trip to Barbados was cancelled enjoyed their camping trip at a north Devon farm so much, they are returning this year. Pop-ups may also accommodate customers not allowed at established sites, such as groups.

We estimate that pop-ups listed on have generated £17m of tourism spend in the 12 months to August 2021. Average pitch fees were £12,500 in 2020, plus extras such as baskets of logs and fresh produce are estimated to generate £7 per night per booking of on-site spend. In addition, it is estimated that each booking generates spend of £30 off site per night per booking [page 23, PDF].

VisitBritain estimates tourism spending will have declined by £140bn (41% compared to 2019) in 2020/21, and average farm business income (essentially net profit) has declined by 9% and 7% in the two years before the pandemic, with farmers also facing the loss of the Basic Payment Scheme.


About permitted development rights

Permitted development rights (PDR) enable land to be used for certain types of uses, for a specific period of time, without the landowner needing to apply for planning permission.
The regulations allow land to be used for ‘any purpose for not more than 28 days in total in any calendar year and the provision on land of any moveable structures for the purposes of the permitted use’. This means that campsites and portable facilities (such as toilets and showers) are deemed to have planning permission for that period.
Some farms and rural businesses have taken advantage of 28-day rights to run campsites in the summer. This has generally been restricted to those businesses which already have facilities on site, such as showgrounds, pubs, or farms with facilities for workers. The cost of temporary structures and the fact that days where structures are in place count against the annual limit, even if no campers are on site, means that 28 days isn’t long enough to make most temporary sites viable.
To support the reopening of the economy, last year the Government introduced a regulation to temporarily extend the usual 28 days to 56 days.
The change in PDR was initially set to be in place until the end of 2020, but as Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc to the UK’s tourism and hospitality sectors, the 56-day extension was extended to the end of 2021 in November 2020. The measure was introduced in Wales in April 2021.
The current extension has enabled more farmers and rural, land-based businesses to benefit from the boom in staycations by opening a temporary campsite, as the extension to 56 days made hiring shower and toilet blocks more economically viable.

Why 56 days is not enough this year

While the extension of permitted development from 28 days to 56 has made many new sites viable, even this more generous limit on days that sites can use permitted development rights is a significant barrier, as days are used up quickly.

It is not just portable facilities that can eat into the allowance when no campers are staying: bad weather can do the same. In 2020, our best-selling temporary site was forced to close for the year two weeks early and refund almost £14,000 in bookings, due to flooding. The allowance is depleted further by staff training, particularly in new COVID-19 measures, by time adding/removing portable facilities, and by empty mid-week periods. The cumulative effect can be to reduce the 56-day allowance to a handful of weekends in peak season.

Meanwhile, demand is spreading to the 'shoulder season' this year: the arrival months with the highest growth compared to 2019 are June (+206%) and September (226%). As mentioned above, over 50% of bookings are for arrival in June or September onwards.

We are therefore asking for the Government to extend the 56 days to allow uses like campsites to be able to operate over the whole summer season. This could be done via a simple update to the regulations to allow certain defined uses such as campsites for tents to operate over the whole summer.

Extending the period to October half term would enable rural businesses to make best use of the weather, by providing the flexibility to operate all season. The change would not only help farmers and other landowners recover from the pandemic, but also benefit a host of rural businesses - from pubs and village stores to tradespeople and garages - sustaining them throughout the winter for the benefit of the entire community. With weekends already sold out at many established campsites, the change would also allow thousands of Brits to get away who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

Finally, the extension from 28 to 56 days is due to come to an end this year. Building on the success of this summer we want the Government to consider a longer term extension of PDR to allow temporary campsites to operate over the summer months every year.

*in 2019, Brits spent 512m nights on holidays abroad and 198m in the UK (source: VisitBritain ONS)

Our asks:

  • Firstly, an extension of the 56-day limit to allow certain uses such as camping to operate unrestricted without a 56-day limit until the end of October 2021. That means that structures could remain in place and campsites can operate when there is demand throughout the summer.
  • Secondly, a permanent extension of the 56-day rule (or longer) for campsites.

Campaign material:

  • Frequently Asked Questions (including toilets and showers, COVID-19 measures, insurance, health and safety, impact on farm subsidies, Countryside Code, VAT and Business Rates)

Organisations supporting our campaign:

As seen and heard on:

Case studies: