How to set up a campsite, glamping site or caravan park in the UK: what permissions do I need?
- 28/56-day camping rule
- How much can I earn?
- Planning permission
- Definition of a 'caravan'
- Lawful Development Certificates
- Extending the season
- Frequently Asked Questions
At Pitchup.com we're often approached by landowners or start-up companies about the practicalities of setting up a campsite or caravan park.
First, here's some inspiration before we get into the nitty gritty of planning law:
- Pop-up sites currently live on Pitchup
- Pitchup on BBC Breakfast (from 5:00) on permitted development rights
- Pitchup on BBC News Channel on the 2020 boom in outdoor accommodation
- HERD IT ALL - article in The Sun on how farmers are opening their fields in 2020
- Holiday Park Innovation 2019 (Pitchup.com presentation)
- Farm Business Innovation 2014 (Pitchup.com presentation)
There's a long list of things to consider and many are well covered elsewhere. Buymydreamhotel.com has a comprehensive article on buying and running a campsite and Metro covered what it's like to ditch city life to live the dream as a campsite owner. Information on rural development grants is fairly easy to find, too.
But what about the permissions you need to open your site to the public? All site owners have to grapple with this complex area, so we've written a guide on how to get your site legit*. (Please note that Pitchup is unable to give legal advice and we recommend that you take independent advice to ensure you are compliant with applicable laws.)
To set up a campsite or caravan park you'll need to think about whether you need planning permission and a site licence:
Planning permission for lodges, caravans, glamping and tents, 28-day camping rule (permitted development) and lawful use
Unless you qualify for permitted development (1) or lawful use (2) below, you will need to submit a planning application to your local authority for:
- The use of the land as a campsite or caravan (definition) site during a specified period
- Any related development, including engineering works to install utilities, metalled roads, ground formation, septic tank or effluent treatment plant, ablutions blocks, offices, lighting and other facilities
How permission is sought, if it's necessary at all, can be a complex matter and it may be worth consulting a planning consultant or solicitor or surveyor with planning expertise (see also Useful links below).
(a) 28/56-day tent camping rights
January 2022 UPDATE:
- In England, 28-day (tent) campsites can no longer open for 56 days in a calendar year under permitted development rights (extension expired December 2021).
A template letter to your MP is available should you wish to support the campaign to extend the 56-day limit into 2022.
Temporary campsites listed on Pitchup.com are estimated to have brought £25m to the rural economy over the last year. Recent coverage of the campaign has included:
In 2021 limits had been extended further: on 28th June 2021, government issued a statement (press release) that "local authorities should not seek to undertake enforcement action against potential breaches of planning control in relation to temporary commercial campsites for leisure use which do not have an adverse impact on amenity, public health and safety or the environment [unless legal obligations dictate otherwise]" to ensure "planning controls are not a barrier to local tourism and hospitality’s economic recovery". This potentially allowed temporary sites to open every weekend until the end of October. The government statement was in force until 31st October 2021 and no longer applies.
- In Wales, 28-day (tent) campsites can no longer open for 56 days (which applied between 30th April 2021 and 3rd January 2022) under permitted development rights. However, the Welsh government is proposing to extend 56-day tent permitted development rights permanently, and is inviting comments by 15th February 2022.
- In Scotland, tent campsites can ordinarily open for 28 days, however guidance has been issued: "In line with the wider approach to relaxing planning control at this time, and for the avoidance of doubt, we do not expect the limits of the 28 day rule to be enforced against reasonable temporary outdoor uses, which may include temporary structures, should a longer period be appropriate and helpful to businesses.".
Planning authorities are being encouraged to allow reasonable temporary breaches of planning control, with additional examples given of "holiday parks to stay open beyond their usual seasons" and "local authorities exploring scope for the temporary use of car parks or other appropriate locations for overnight stops in campervans and motorhomes" (for example Highland Council).
The guidance lasts until the end of September 2022.
- In Northern Ireland, tent campsites can ordinarily open for 28 days, however the Chief Planner issued an update in December 2020: "we do not expect the limits of the 28 day rule to be enforced against reasonable temporary outdoor uses, which may include temporary structures, should a longer period be appropriate and helpful for businesses"
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, we would recommend checking first with your local planning department if you wish to site tents and/or facilities for longer than 28 days.
Many tent campsites operate under the '28-day rule'. This is a form of 'permitted development' allowing land to be used without having to submit a planning application (because permission is deemed to exist already) '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 suits the typical summer campsite perfectly, allowing not only tent camping but also portable buildings for ablutions and reception.
You may still need a site licence (except in Scotland) if operating for more than 42 consecutive days. Your local authority will be able to confirm whether they will be enforcing this requirement. Alternatively, since no licence is required for up to 60 non-consecutive days, you could insert a gap to avoid a consecutive 42-day period.
Since there is no requirement for the 28 days to run consecutively, many owners 'cherry pick' the busiest periods, sacrificing some of the summer to open over spring bank-holiday weekends. Technically, however, land must be restored to its original condition between the periods of use, and any moveable structures removed, so a continuous period of 28 days may be more viable. However, the English, Scottish and Northern Irish governments have ordered local authorities to relax enforcement of permitted development limits.
A small number of landowners may be able to run different 28-day periods if the landholding contains multiple 'planning units'. Generally an area of land under the same ownership would be a single planning unit, restricted to one 28-day period. However, there may be multiple planning units where, for example, separate land lies between, different uses exist on the land (e.g. a visitor attraction), or an estate lies over a large area. To confirm this we recommend speaking to your local planning authority.
Lawyers have suggested that permitted development rights be extended to 6 months to cover the spring/summer season (not least due to the risk of poor weather), and extended to the end of 2022. On 28th June 2021 the government's written ministerial statement relaxed enforcement of permitted development limits in England until 31st October 2021, following a campaign led by Pitchup.com.
moveable structures on wheels or skids in connection with the use of the site, such as portable toilets, benefit from the same permitted development rights. However, any day when such a temporary structure is on site counts as one of the number of days permitted. The Scottish and Northern Irish governments have ordered local authorities to relax enforcement of permitted development limits.
glamping units, such as bell tents, can benefit from the above permitted development. However if operational development' (carrying out building, engineering, mining or other operations) is involved, for example the construction of a solid base, a planning application will be required. Whether something is a building operation depends on factors such as the size, permanence and physical attachment to the ground. To determine whether a planning application is required you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate or discuss the matter informally with your local planning department
similarly, a planning application may still be required for new engineering work to install drains, electricity, roads, etc. However, minor development may excused under the 'de minimis' principle
- a separate licence may still be required for certain types of moveable facility, such as a take-away van
- trailer tents qualify for permitted development, but caravans (definition) do not. This prevents touring caravans and motorhomes/campervans being sited, but you may be able to use the licence exemption for 28-day use of up to 3 units. In Scotland, however, planning rules are being relaxed further and motorhomes/campervans may be allowed.
- permitted development rights do not override existing planning conditions and there may be other reasons they are not available (see below). If you have not provided camping under permitted development ('28-day camping rule') before, we would suggest confirming status with your local planning department
- the 28-day rights are not available for land within the curtilage of a building. However, the new additional 28 day rights are available in England for land within the curtilage of a building unless it is a listed building and in Wales within the curtilage of a building unless there is a scheduled monument within that curtilage
(b) No caravan site licence required, or tent use by members of an exempt organisation
Use as a caravan site where the land is operating under the exemptions from a caravan site licence is permitted development. An exception to this is winter accommodation for travelling showmen, which does not require a caravan site licence but does require planning permission! (Source: England Wales Scotland).
In England and Wales, use of land by members of a recreational organisation for the purposes of recreation or instruction, and the erection or placing of tents on the land for the purposes of the use ('Section 269' use) is also permitted development. (Source: England Wales).
(c) Work required by site licence
In Scotland, planning authorities are being encouraged to allow reasonable temporary breaches of planning control to support the national response to COVID-19, "particularly through choosing not to take enforcement action". For example, Highland Council has temporarily relaxed planning rules to enable landowners with suitable sites to provide continental-style motorhome/campervan stopovers. A caravan site licence is still required unless licence exemptions apply. Guidance is in force until the end of September 2022.
See also Extending the season
Note that the above permitted development rights may not be available if:
- the landowner has signed a 'Section 106' agreement with the council (Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Section 106), which may have forfeited permitted development rights on the land in exchange for planning permission
- the land is the subject of an 'Article 4' direction (The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, Article 4), usually near listed buildings and important scientific, historical or natural sites
- the land is subject to 'Article 3' (The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, Article 3), when local authority approval is required where a European conservation area is likely to be significantly affected. There are also restrictions under Article 3 if the use is Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 development under Environmental Impact Assessment regulations
If a campsite or caravan park has been operating without planning consent, it may be possible to apply to the local authority for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) as an alternative to seeking planning permission. An LDC is a legally binding declaration that 'development' (in this case, use of the land as a campsite or caravan site) either does or did not need planning permission, or has become lawful due to the passage of time. 'Passage of time' means 10 years for use of land, or four years for building works, but note that the burden of proof falls on the applicant. (Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Section 191.)
The fee for an LDC based on 'passage of time' is the same as for the equivalent planning application (see below).
An application for an LDC must be decided within eight weeks of registration. Unlike an application for planning permission, the decision hinges only on factual evidence about the history and planning status of the development, and the interpretation of planning law. If the application is refused or granted in a different form, or the decision is not made by the statutory deadline, there is a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
Applying for planning permission
If your ambitions go beyond a 28-day camping site and you're not in a position to apply for an LDC, you need to apply to your local authority for planning permission. Contact your local council's planning department to discuss the matter and determine what sort of planning application is required - it may be that the land benefits from existing planning consent and you simply need to apply to change a condition, or a full planning application may be necessary. (Part III of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990).
When submitting your application, include information on the economic value of the campsite or caravan site, both direct (benefits to your own business) and indirect (benefits to other parts of the local economy). See the links at the bottom of this article for data on the size of the camping and caravan market, and its economic contribution.
How much is it?
Fees vary widely depending on factors such as existing planning consents and plot size. As an example, in England it costs £234 to apply to construct a car park (for existing uses), and £462 to change the use of land. See the Planning Portal for more information on pricing in England and Wales and how to create the compulsory location plan and block plan, as well as an application tool.
After submission, the local authority will publicise the planning application to members of the public and 'consultee' organisations. Consultees may include the local parish council, wildlife trust, public rights of way officers, the Environment Agency, tourist boards and agencies responsible for Heritage Coasts, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
After receiving consultee responses and comments from the public, officers in the council's planning department will produce a summary of the application and recommendation to approve, refuse or defer the decision pending more information. The officer's recommendation should be based solely on the application's 'planning merits' - normally, whether it conforms with the council's development plan and central government guidance - rather than political factors such as the amount of local objection.
The planning officers may present the application and recommendation to a committee of local councillors who will make a decision on the application, which may not match the recommendation; however, minor, uncontentious applications are increasingly being decided by planning officers under 'delegated powers', which avoid having to wait for a committee decision.
Central government's planning guidance for England be found at National Planning Policy Framework, whose presumption in favour of sustainable development will accelerate the planning process, it is hoped, to the benefit of rural tourism business. There are similar documents for Welsh planning policy and Scottish planning policy.
How long does it take?
The statutory time limit for the local authority to decide an application is eight weeks from registration by the authority, unless the application site is larger than one hectare (13 weeks) or an Environmental Impact Assessment is necessary (16 weeks). If permission is refused, or the decision is not made by the statutory deadline, it is possible to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
A licence is required from your local authority if:
- The land is to be used for tented camping (including trailer tents) on more than 42 consecutive days at a time or more than 60 days in 12 consecutive months. Any campsites over 100 yards away are counted separately (Public Health Act 1936, Section 269) (not required in Scotland, which also generally allows wild camping; for Northern Ireland see note*). ('Camping licence')
- The land is used for caravans (including static caravans, pods, touring caravans and motorhomes/campervans full definition) for human habitation (Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960). You must have planning permission for the caravan site before this licence can be granted and the licence must normally be issued within two months. ('Caravan site licence')
Where sites have mixed types of accommodation, including tent pitches, sites are normally licensed as a single site, with tents deemed to be touring units for the purpose of the conditions.
The licence may contain various conditions - relating to the number and type of units (tent, touring caravan, static caravan, etc.) permissible at the same time, spacing between units, toilets, waste water, showers, refuse disposal, fire safety, roads, footpaths, electrical installations, LPG storage and recreational space. In drafting conditions the local authority is likely to consider the government's 'model standards' for holiday static caravan sites [PDF] and touring caravan sites [PDF].
You can enjoy exemptions from site licence and planning permission all year round if your site joins an 'exempt organisation'. These are recreation clubs such as The Greener Camping Club, the Freedom Camping Club, the Caravan and Motorhome Club (CAMC) and the Camping and Caravanning Club (C&CC) which have been approved in England, in Wales, in Scotland or in Northern Ireland to issue 'exemption certificates' to landowners. The exempt organisation would typically inspect the site and make a number of checks before issuing a certificate.
- put up tents (which may include trailer tents, tipis, bell tents, safari tents and yurts) - non-members allowed if site 'belonging to' or 'provided by' the exempt organisation; otherwise members only ('Section 269' use)
- stay in a 'caravan' (definition) (e.g. touring caravan, motorhome/campervan, pod, hut) as follows:
- Approved sites exemption: up to 5 caravans at any time - non-members allowed except in Wales ('paragraph 5' use)
- Supervised and occupied sites exemption: for recreational purposes, if the land is occupied and supervised by the exempt organisation itself - non-members allowed, with no limit on duration or capacity ('paragraph 4' use)
- Club meetings or rallies exemption: as part of a club meeting for members lasting up to 5 days - non-members not allowed ('paragraph 6' use)
The Freedom Camping Club has published guidance on the types of unit allowed, but please note there may be differences in the rules set by each exempt organisation.
Although non-members can stay at '5-van sites' under the approved sites ('paragraph 5') exemption above (except in Wales), the CAMC's 'certificated locations' and the C&CC's 'certificated sites' (CSs) restrict use to its club members only.
A significant membership fee can more than double the cost of the stay, and many customers take few trips each year. As such, if your exempt organisation levies a compulsory membership fee your potential customers may be limited: customers can book a nearby site that either doesn't require membership or provides it free.
|Exempt organisation||Allowed to list on Pitchup?||Membership fee to customers||
('paragraph 5' use)
|Glamping units allowed||Advertising restrictions||Time to approval||Online booking via Club website||Application fee||Regions|
|Greener Camping Club||Yes||£12/year per family||15 minus number of caravans||5 (of which max. 2 'soft' glamping units)||Yes||None||3-6 months||No||
|Freedom Camping Club||Yes||Free||Unlimited||5||Yes||None||4-6 months||No||
|Woodland Champions Club||Yes||Free||10||5 (glamping units only)||Yes||None||4 days - 3 months||No||
|Wanderlust Camping Club UK||Yes||£25/year per family||Unlimited||5||Yes||None||4 weeks||No||
|Go Explore Camping Club||Yes||Free||Unlimited||5||Yes||None||14 days||No||
|MotorhomeFun||Yes||N/A (Non-members accepted)||0||5||No||None||8 weeks||No||tbc||England, Wales, Scotland|
|Motor Caravanners' Club (MCC)||Yes||£36.75/year (Non-members accepted)||0||5 (no trailer tents, no pop-up tents within vehicle footprint)||No||None||4-6 weeks+ (planning dept approval sought)||No||
||England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland|
|Landpod Camping Club||Yes||Free||0||5 landpods||
||England, Wales, Scotland|
|The Camping and Caravanning Club (C&CC)||No||£42/year per family living together||10||5 (caravans, motorhomes, trailer tents only)||
Advertising and online booking not allowed via 3rd parties
||England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland|
|The Caravan and Motorhome Club (CAMC)||No||£56/year per family living together||0||5 (caravans, motorhomes, trailer tents only)||No||None||N/A||No||
||England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland|
"Formerly we have only accepted members of the Camping and Caravanning Club but after nearly 50 years with them as a Certificated Site we decided to go it alone. Last year we started using you as we knew we would need help getting out there in the very competitive world of camping in Cornwall and we were pleased with the bookings we got from you. This year, without the restriction of the Club membership, we have been even more rewarded with bookings via your website." - Trewan Hall Camping Site
Other exempt activities (Source)
No licence is required if caravans (definition) are being used:
- incidentally to the enjoyment of a house, and sited within the curtilage of the house
- for building/engineering workers or seasonal agriculture or forestry workers or certified travelling showmen
- by a person travelling with a caravan, for not more than two nights, as long as:
- no other caravan is stationed on that land or adjoining land in the same occupation; and
- caravans for human habitation had not been present on that land or the above adjoining land for more than 28 days in the previous 12 months
- on a plot of five acres or more (including adjoining land in the same occupation and not built on), as long as:
- caravans for human habitation had not been present on that land or the above adjoining land for more than 28 days in the previous 12 months; and
- no more than 3 caravans had been stationed at any one time in the last 12 months
- on sites owned by the local authority
- A maximum of three caravans (or motorhomes) are permitted at any one time
- The property is an agricultural holding/registered croft which is a minimum of 2 acres
- Caravans / motorhomes are only allowed on site between 1st April and 30th September
- No excavation, or other engineering works, including the siting of temporary structures are to be carried out
How do I apply for a site licence if I am not exempt?
For tents, apply at camping licence (England and Wales) (not required in Scotland).
The fee to apply for a licence ranges from zero to £600 or more, depending on your local authority, and there is normally no expiry date unless the site's planning permission expires. As part of the process you would normally be expected to submit a site plan. If your application is refused, you can appeal to the local magistrates' court.
Existing licences do not automatically transfer to another person or business if the business is sold, and need to be transferred by the council. This generally involves a fee.
In July 2020, the government issued a written ministerial statement in support of a longer season in England: "local planning authorities...should not seek to undertake planning enforcement action which would unnecessarily restrict the ability of caravan and holiday parks to extend their open season".
Questions and answers on the announcement highlight that an application is not always necessary, encouraging applicants to discuss an extended season with the planning authority beforehand:
"Pre-application engagement can improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system and improve the quality of planning applications and their likelihood of success. Local planning authorities can also advise whether a planning application is necessary."
The government also states that, if an application is necessary, it should be prioritised with post-COVID-19 economic benefits taken into account:
"Where local planning authorities consider it appropriate to require an application to vary relevant planning conditions (where for instance there is a risk of flooding or where parks are situated close to protected sites) they should prioritise the application and make an early decision to provide certainty to caravan, campsite and holiday park operators. In doing so, they should consider the benefits of longer opening season times for a temporary period to the local economy as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19."
The guidance applies until 31st December 2022.
In June 2021 the government issued a further written ministerial statement encouraging local planning authorities "to take a flexible and proportionate approach to the enforcement of planning controls, including restrictions through planning conditions on existing campsites which may limit the temporary extension of commercial campsites for leisure use over this holiday season". However, the guidance expired on 31st October 2021.
On 6th April 2021 Wales' Chief Planner Neil Hemington advised that planning applications for temporary uses should be prioritised to support businesses:
Where [permitted development rights] do not facilitate a temporary use and therefore a planning application is required, [local planning authorities] should prioritise these applications. Authorities should seek to support to businesses and organisations, where the planning impacts are acceptable, to maximise their potential to operate over the forthcoming spring/summer months as coronavirus COVID-19 control measures are relaxed. Short term permissions and conditions should be used to manage planning impacts which would be inappropriate on a permanent basis.
The Welsh Government’s Minister for Housing & Local Government, Julie James MS, wrote to Chief Executives and Heads of Planning of all local authorities and National Park Authorities in July 2020. In her letter she encouraged authorities
“to work with the industry to develop application procedures which minimise inconvenience and cost for applicants while providing authorities the information they need to make a decision within an efficient timescale. I am clear that local planning authorities should support caravan sites and other self-catering accommodation through this crisis by amending conditions to refer to holiday occupancy restrictions rather than using a season occupancy basis, where a policy need is set out in the development plan”
She added that, especially between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, restrictions to protect local features should be the exception and "any time restriction should be kept to the minimum necessary, to avoid significant harm".
A planning guide has been prepared by Planning Aid Wales, to help owners (i) decide whether to make an application for extended operations and, if they do, (ii) to support them through the necessary steps.
Planning authorities are being encouraged to allow reasonable temporary breaches of planning control to support the national response to COVID-19, "particularly by using their discretion not to take enforcement action against planning breaches that are acceptable in the current circumstances" and "specific examples have included support for...holiday parks to stay open beyond their usual seasons".
Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing MSP has been reported as urging Scottish local authorities to "recognise the benefits of enabling seasonal businesses such as holiday parks to continue to operate beyond any conditioned limits to their season."
- How much can I expect to earn from a new campsite?
- What are the health and safety requirements for campsites?
- Do campsites need to provide toilets and showers, and how many?
- Where can campsites hire portable toilets and showers in the UK?
- Checklist for pop-up sites
- What insurance do I need?
- How can I dispose of waste?
- What Coronavirus measures should I be taking?
- How can I accept cards onsite?
- Are there any other requirements?
- Am I liable for business rates?
- Do I need to charge VAT?
- What is the local economic impact?
- What effect has the pandemic had?
- What is a caravan? Does a shepherd's hut / pod / gypsy caravan / microlodge / cabin / luxury lodge qualify?
- What types of accommodation benefit from permitted development other than tent pitches?
- How long is the season?
- How can I install electric hook-ups?
- Can I put up an entrance sign?
- My land is part of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), e.g. SSSI. What difference does this make?
- How does this affect my Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlement?
- Where can I find out more about joining Pitchup or speak to someone?
An average tent site might earn around £13,000 per year on Pitchup.com. However, this figure can rise as high as £577,000, and since lockdown lifted new sites have achieved significantly better results, for example:
- £100,000 in its first month for an activity centre in Hampshire
- £217,000 in 2020 for a farm site in Wales (with planning permission)
- Almost 100 sites that joined since June 2020 earned over £10,000 in their first three months
- 75 bookings in the first 24 hours for a farm site in Cornwall
- 600 bookings and £50,000 in the first week for a pop-up site in Cumbria
Contributing factors include local competition, price and type of accommodation. Typically around two-thirds of income is earned from arrivals in June, July or August
In summer 2020 Pitchup hit a new record of 6,500 bookings in a single day.
If you employ staff, you are subject to health and safety legislation, which covers your staff and any guests. Requirements including taking out insurance and making a risk assessment. You also need to take into account COVID-19-related risks.
There is a template for conducting the risk assessement designed for caravan and camping sites at Eden District Council's website.
Here are some useful resources:
- General guidance from The Health and Safety Executive
- The Environment Agency has issued a press release urging pop-up campsites to assess their flood risk. See also: Flooding - minimising the risk [PDF] for sites in a flood risk area (How to check flood risk / Environmental permits for flood risk areas)
- Government Fire Safety Outdoors guide [PDF]
- Health and Safety Executive Temporary outdoor events near a major accident hazard
Around 95% of sites listed on Pitchup.com provide toilets and showers: not only is it easier to attract guests by providing these facilities, but also they encourage longer stays and favourable reviews of your business when kept in good order. These are usually provided within either toilet blocks or portaloos.
Moveable structures on wheels or skids in connection with the use of the site, such as portable toilets, benefit from the same permitted development rights. However, any day when such a temporary structure remains on site counts as one of the number of days permitted.
Strictly speaking, an unlicensed campsite is not legally required to offer water, toilets or showers. However, you may want to follow best practices on the number of basins, toilets and showers per pitch. The following guidance is from Cornwall County Council's Licence Conditions for Camp Sites (see section H, page 3).
- For sites with up to 120 pitches there shall be 2 WCs for women, 1 WC and 1 urinal for men, per 30 pitches or part thereof.
- There shall be 2 wash hand basins for women and 2 for men per 30 pitches or part thereof and shall be provided with a constant supply of hot and cold water sited adjacent to the toilets.
- Showers with hot and cold water or water at a suitably controlled temperature shall be provided on a scale of 2 showers for men and 2 showers for women per 60 pitches.
- Foul drainage shall be discharged to either a public sewer, private sewer, septic tank or Cesspool approved by the council.
- Particular consideration should be given to the needs of the disabled in the provision made for water points, toilets, washing points and showers.
For example, according to the above guidance a 60-pitch site would have:
- 4 WCs for women, 2 WCs and 2 urinals for men
- 4 wash hand basins for women and 4 for men
- 2 showers for men and 2 showers for women
If you are unable to provide toilets and showers, or they are temporarily closed, there are options for customer to bring their own.
A selection of hire companies is listed below (please note Pitchup is not in the position to recommend any suppliers):
- E-Toilet Services
- Let Loos
- Exmoor Luxury Loos
- Tardis Hire
- Zoo Loos
Note: a licence may still be required for certain types of moveable facility, such as a take-away van
Before you start accepting tents on your campsite, there are a few things you should do. Below is a checklist of necessary steps to make sure your pop-up site is legal, sanitary and COVID-compliant:
- In Scotland and Northern Ireland, governments have now instructed local authorities not to enforce the limits of the 28-day rule in most circumstances. If you wish to site tents and/or facilities for longer than the current limits (28 days in England and Wales, with more flexibility in Scotland and Northern Ireland), we would recommend checking first with your planning department: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#PermittedDevelopment
- A camping licence may still be required (except in Scotland) if you exceed 42 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days, but only for days with tents on the land. This would allow up to 60 non-consecutive days of tent camping without needing a licence, with moveable facilities staying on the land for longer, for example at weekends until the end of October. If you do require a licence, visit this link to apply.
- Apply for/extend your insurance. Find out about employer’s liability and public liability insurance: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#Insurance
- Hire toilets and showers to improve the experience for your guests and increase your bookings. Around 95% of sites listed on Pitchup.com provide at least toilets: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#ToiletsShowers
- Arrange bins (including recycling bins) and a waste carrier: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#Waste
- Order a payment terminal to take in-person card and contactless payments (Apple Pay, Google Pay): https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#Cards
- Optionally, generate, print and put up an NHS QR Code poster: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#CoronavirusMeasures or (in Scotland) https://www.mygov.scot/qr-check-in
- Print and put up a Countryside Code poster to encourage your guests to ‘leave no trace’: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#RiskAssessment
- Complete a health and safety risk assessment: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#RiskAssessment
- Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment and take other priority measures: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#CoronavirusMeasures
- Notify Rural Payments Scheme if Basic Payment Scheme land affected for over 28 days: https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#BPS
- Unless you are taking advantage of the above concession, if you are using your days allowance over separate periods then technically the land must be restored to its original condition between the periods of use and moveable structures removed. Normally any days that temporary structures are on site count as part of the maximum you are allowed under Permitted Development Rights (28 days in England and Wales, but more flexibility in Scotland and Northern Ireland): https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/#PermittedDevelopment
- You can easily keep tabs on the number of days used so far by Pitchup bookings by checking the new counter at the bottom right hand side of the Allocation tab of your listing: https://www.pitchup.com/supplier2/. This counts any days campers are on the land, including the departure date.
If you plan to accept other types of accommodation than tents, please scroll up to read about the planning and licensing requirements
If your business employs staff you are normally legally required to have employers' liability insurance (EL), which covers claims by staff for illness or injury. If you have no employees or are a family business and all employees are closely related to you, you may not need it.
You may also want to take out other types of insurances: we strongly recommend at least £2m of public liability insurance (PL) to cover claims made by members of the public. Read more.
Please note that Pitchup is not regulated to provide insurance advice and so cannot recommend specific firms.
Read more about health and safety requirements and risk assessments.
In England, employers must include COVID-19 risks when undertaking compulsory risk assessments. Businesses are encouraged to allow customers to 'check in' by displaying an NHS QR code poster or by collecting NHS Track & Trace information from customers who do not 'check in' using the NHS COVID-19 app.
In Wales, it is a legal requirement to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment. Some venues, for example pubs and restaurants where people may come into close contact with those outside their household, may conclude it is reasonable to collect customer information under the Test, Trace, Protect scheme. How to get a NHS QR code poster NHS Track & Trace information [PDF]
In Scotland, business must follow the safer workplaces guidance and conduct COVID-19 risk assessment. Hospitality premises such as pubs, bars and restaurants must collect customer or visitor information.
The list of all priority actions in the UK are as follows:
- Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment
- Clean more often, including hand washing/sanitiser
- Ask your customers to wear face coverings where required to do so by law, and in any indoor space
- Make sure everyone is social distancing
- Increase ventilation
- Support NHS Test and Trace, depending the type of venue
- Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away
- Ensure customers are aware of the legal limits on group sizes
- Encourage contactless payments
- Consider how your business interacts with the local area, and avoid encouraging crowds
Each country has its own guide aimed at tourism and hospitality providers:
There is also a guide to COVID-19 health and safety from the British Holiday and Home Parks Association (BH&HPA).
Visit our guide for additional rules and guidance from government and trade associations.
Providing a card terminal makes it easier for your guests to buy these extras. If you take the balance on arrival, it's also a convenient way for customers to settle up.
- SumUp Air Terminal for only £14.99 (usually £19), and reductions on other terminals
- First £500 in transactions processed free
- Low processing fee of 1.69%
- No contract, monthly fees or minimum commitment
To sign up, visit the SumUp website.
Once you start taking card payments, make sure you amend your payment methods in the portal (Site info / Payments section) by ticking all that apply under ‘Payment methods accepted on the park’.
If you are accepting touring caravans and motorhomes, there should be a secure emptying point for chemical waste. A Campervan and Motorhome Waste Disposal Guide for independent developments has been produced in Scotland.
Ensure that any access roads can accommodate the vehicle sizes you accept. The entrance to the site should be at least 12ft wide if touring caravans and motorhomes are allowed.
Read more about health and safety requirements and risk assessments.
During COVID-19, further concessions may apply - for example, leisure businesses in England enjoy a business rates holiday during 2021.
You will need to include VAT in your prices if you are registered for VAT. (Check whether you meet the criteria.)
Holiday accommodation qualifies for a reduced rate of VAT of 5% until 30th September 2021 and 12.5% from 1st October 2021 until 31st March 2022.
You would account for VAT on the full amount of the booking at the rate above, and reclaim VAT on Pitchup.com's commission. Please note that the VAT rate paid by Pitchup.com on commission remains 20%, because we provide a booking service rather than accommodation and therefore do not qualify for the reduced rate. More information.
Outdoor accommodation brings significant economic benefits to local economies, with parties spending an estimated £46 per day off site (source, table 5.6 p. 24).
Locations tend to be expansive and away from urban/residential areas, mitigating social distancing concerns.
As a low-cost holiday with facilities on-site often limited, outdoor accommodation tends to generate high footfall for local services. In many areas, local services would be unable to stay open during the winter without income from summer tourism.
For some years, rural holidays in the UK have been benefiting from trends such as wellness and glamping, as well as disruption to air travel, exchange-rate volatility, Brexit and sustainability concerns.
The lifting of lockdown restrictions saw very high demand for domestic holidays without an increase in supply. With accommodation sold out at peak times even in a normal year, many holidaymakers turned to outdoor accommodation for the first time. There is every sign that those new to camping and caravanning are set to return, with our own bookings for 2021 284% up on last year and sales of touring caravans and motorhomes/campervans strongly recovering (source: ECF). Meanwhile, the leading hotel and apartment online agents have reported annual declines of around 50% for the first nine months of 2020. As a relatively low-cost holiday, the outdoor accommodation sector tends to perform well during recessionary periods.
In 2019, Brits spent 512m nights on holidays abroad, compared to only 198m nights holidaying in Great Britain. By contrast, only 55m nights were spent on domestic camping and caravanning holidays, suggesting considerable scope to absorb a shift from international travel towards ‘staycations’ (source: GBTS/IPS).
What is a caravan? Does a shepherd's hut / pod / gypsy caravan / microlodge / cabin / luxury lodge qualify?
A 'caravan' includes static caravans, touring caravans and motorhomes/campervans, but also typically pods, shepherd's huts, gypsy caravans and moveable lodges:
'“caravan” means any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another (whether by being towed, or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer) and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted, but does not include...any tent' Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960
Many units such as camping pods have been specifically designed to meet the legal definition of a caravan, to take advantage of more favourable planning rules compared to built accommodation. Check with your manufacturer who should be able to confirm this.
If a caravan site licence is not needed - for example siting up to three touring caravans, motorhomes or campervans for up to 28 days each year on 5 acres or more - then the use is already permitted development (under planning permission section 1 (b) above). View the scenarios above where a site licence is not required. The answer above explains the definition of a 'caravan'.
As 'moveable structures', trailer tents benefit from 28-day permitted development rights. Glamping units, such as bell tents, may also benefit from permitted development as long as a 'building operation' is not involved, for example the construction of a solid base. Whether something is a building operation depends on factors such as the size, permanence and physical attachment to the ground of the specific development. To determine whether a planning application is required you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate or discuss the matter informally with your local planning department.
- For tent/trailer tent pitches or glamping units without a building operation, a site licence would be required for more than 42 consecutive days or more than 60 non-consecutive days with tents on the land, and a planning application for more than 28 (consecutive or non-consecutive) days with moveable structures or tents on the land. However governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have ordered local authorities to relax enforcement of 28-day permitted development rights in most circumstances. This would allow up to 60 non-consecutive days of tent camping without needing a camping licence, with moveable facilities on the land for longer - for example, at weekends until October
- On a plot of under 5 acres, one touring caravan/motorhome/campervan is permitted for not more than two nights for up to 28 days over the last 12 months. More units or days require a site licence and a planning application
- On a plot of over 5 acres, three touring caravans/motorhomes/campervans are permitted for up to 28 days over the last 12 months. More units or days require a site licence and a planning application
- Other use or building and engineering work, unless it is required to comply with a site licence or it benefits from other types of permitted development or lawful use, may require a planning application. Minor development may excused under the 'de minimis' principle
Governments have also encouraged an extension of the tourist season via the planning system.
With deregulation encouraging a longer season and international travel severely restricted, we are already seeing significantly higher demand overall and specifically for off-peak bookings than normal. According to VisitBritain's COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Tracker 2020 [PDF]:
- Only 27% of Brits took an overnight UK trip in July/August
- 20% expect to take a UK holiday between September and December, and 10% between January and March
- 9% have already booked their next domestic overnight trip, and 26% more plan to book between now and March 2021
- 43% of those taking a UK trip plan to stay in caravan/camping in January - March, making it the most popular accommodation type
Electric hook-ups are increasingly popular - 56% of pitch bookings on Pitchup.com were for electric pitches in the year to January 2021. To find an electrical contractor, visit:
In England, you are allowed to put up "notices or signs...on any premises for the purpose of advertising the fact that a person, partnership or company is carrying on a profession, business or trade at those premises. These would include...the name of a company operating from the premises." (Class 2(B), page 12, Outdoor advertisements and signs: a guide for advertisers [PDF]).
This must not exceed 0.3 of a square metre in area, but if there is more than one entrance to the premises on different road frontages, two advertisements of 0.3 of a square metre each may be displayed (on a separate frontage).
Under Class 5 (page 18), you can also put up "a wide variety of notices, signs and advertisements to draw attention to any commercial services, goods for sale, or any other services available at the premises where the advertisement is being displayed".
My land is part of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), e.g. SSSI. What difference does this make?
While being in a SAC such as an SSSI does not automatically remove permitted development rights for tent camping, you may need to seek consent from Natural England. Find out more. For SSSIs, this depends on the list of 'Operations requiring Natural England's consent' which you can look up at Natural England's Designated Sites View. More information on the SSSI consent process.
Camping and caravan sites are permitted 'non-agricultural activities' under BPS for up to 28 days each calendar year (p. 24).
Non-agricultural activities taking place for more than 28 days in the calendar year should be reported using code NA02 on form RLE1. This code relates to "an area of land which is normally agricultural but the intensity, nature, duration, and timing of non-agricultural activity significantly interferes with agricultural activity". More information.
Hopefully this guide has helped you navigate the maze of campsite and caravan site legislation to work out what permissions and licences you need, or even better, avoid them altogether!
Best of luck with setting up your new business and do get in touch if we can help.
Find suppliers of caravan site services (National Caravan Council)
General business start-up advice
Funding and economic impact
Economic contribution: holiday and touring parks across the UK [PDF] (British Holiday and Home Parks Association)
Economic impact of holiday parks and campsites (British Holiday and Home Parks Association)
Rural development grants
Organisations exempt from camping licences or caravan site licences in England (Natural England) - camping organisations [PDF]. caravan organisations [PDF]
Organisations exempt from camping licences or caravan site licences in Wales (Welsh government)
Organisations exempt from camping licences or caravan site licences in Scotland (Scottish government)
Organisations exempt from camping licences or caravan site licences in Northern Ireland (Northern Irish government)
Individual planning consultants
James Shorten - tel. 07726 362709 / email@example.com
Chris Tivey Associates - tel. 07835 927754 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Tufnell, Herefordshire - tel. 01531 640675 / 07710 234332 / email@example.com
Samuel and Son, East Sussex - tel. 01435 864020 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Chapman Lilley (Brett Spiller), Wareham - tel. 01929 553818 / email@example.com
Anthony Keen, Kent - tel. 01622 814640 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Smith, Norfolk - tel. 01508 530401 / email@example.com
Davies and Co., Northants - tel. 01536 524808
Alexis Tysler, Halesowen - tel. 0121 585 5544 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Hannis - email@example.com
Firms specialising in caravan parks and campsites
Fox Leisure (chartered surveyors, business agents)
Avison Young (chartered surveyors, business agents)
Lambe Planning & Design (planning consultants)
Colliers (business agents)
Sanderson Weatherall (business agents)
Savills (business agents)
* Please note that this article relates to sites for holiday use, rather than owner-occupied or residential parks, in Great Britain only (there are different rules for Northern Ireland). Pitchup is unable to give legal advice or accept responsbility for errors and omissions, so it also comes with the usual health warning to seek your own professional advice on implementing the rules.
(first published February 2012, updated February 2013, November 2014, January 2015, November 2017, January 2020, May 2020, July 2020, November 2020, December 2020, January - December 2021, January 2022)