CAPITALISING ON THE CAMPSITE CRAZE

2021: the year Staycations became a key driver of the British Tourism economy once again! 

Even before the pandemic, there was a clear interest in domestic travel, however, thanks to the Covid-19 crisis, this has spiked over the past few months. The share of people taking holidays exclusively within the UK in 2019 was eight per cent higher than those taking holidays exclusively abroad. 

The British government has been encouraging domestic travel in the short term to help boost the UK economy, along with an ongoing process of consideration in regard to the variance in vaccination pace and Covid-19 controls in other countries to allow safe international travel – all of which points towards UK tourists choosing to stay within the country for their holidays in the near future.

Add to this the fact that the number of days holiday taken by employees throughout the pandemic has dramatically decreased, we have a situation where many people are left with a backlog of annual leave to take from work, but due to travel restrictions and quarantines, they have a limited choice of places to choose from, with the UK being top of the list.

August is the busiest month to travel in England, with 12 per cent of trips happening in August 2019.

All in all, this creates a potentially lucrative additional income for farmers and business owners with land to spare…

So, how do you go about setting up a campsite or caravan site on your farm/land?

Planning permission

James Hollyman of Malcolm Scott Consultants said “We have dealt with many change of use applications for a mix of rural land owners, and any change of use from agriculture needs planning permission.  Although some small-scale camping is allowed under permitted development rules, for permanent and larger seasonal sites, full planning permission will likely be needed.”

Key considerations could include issues such as the highway and access implications, as well as the size of the site, proposed number of pitches and the visual and landscape impacts.

Until 31st December 2021, temporary activities including camping may be able to be carried out without the need for a planning application, as long as they are for no more than 56 days a year.  Any use beyond this could require a planning application.  It should be noted that there may be exceptions to the 56 day rule when it comes to site development and before you invest into a camp site it is important to discuss our plans with your town planning contact.

Also, it needs noting that any structural works or engineering such as hardstanding are likely to need planning permission.

Malcolm Scott Consultants, who specialise in business development, rural land development and town planning, has a free advice line that can be contacted on 01905 726353 or 01905 721965 if anyone wants to discuss any aspect of planning needs.

Do you need any other permissions or licences?

Many camp sites need to be licensed by the local authority, which can set conditions about how the site should be laid out, what type of caravans are allowed and what toilet and washing facilities should be provided.

Planning permission must be in place before the licence application is made.

The need for planning permission should not be mixed up with gaining a Camping Licence in England and Wales.  https://www.gov.uk/camping-licence-wales

The first thing which the government website states is that you should contact your local council for a licence if you live in England or Wales and want to use your land as a campsite (including trailer tents).  However, prior this, should a business want to have a campsite permanently, then you must have planning permission for the campsite before you apply for a licence.  This can be seen at https://www.gov.uk/camping-licence-wales

As seen in the farmersguide.co.uk, landowners in England were given the green light to accept tents without planning permission for 56 days per calendar year this summer, and this has now been extended to 31st December 2021.  The article also stated that “When Boris Johnson indicated on 10th May that holiday accommodation and tourist attractions might be in a position to reopen from July, the appetite for domestic holidays exploded, with travel businesses charting record bookings. At Pitchup.com, which lists 2,100 outdoor accommodation sites around the UK, bookings increased by 780 per cent in the month following the announcement and hit a record high of 6,500 individual bookings on 3rd August.

The article continues to highlight that: “These temporary sites proved a popular choice for safety-conscious holidaymakers, with over 100,000 guests staying on a pop-up in July and August this year.  In fact, so successful were these new 56-day pop-up sites that many of the landowners have applied for planning permission for a full season in 2021, and most applications are decided within 8 weeks. Sites with planning permission then benefit from favourable new government advice on a longer season.”

With reports that holidays across the UK are already selling out for peak periods next year , the appetite for domestic tourism remains high for 2021 and 2022.

Andrew Burton, business development associate for Malcolm Scott Consultants, said: “Those selling food to campers must meet legal requirements in this area too and need to register their premises with the local authority environmental health department within 28 days of opening. 

“Many of our clients already have licences in place, but if you are going to establish new areas to trade from then letting your council know needs to be done.  Also, any food management control documentation needs creating too for new areas, which could include updating current files or building new files.  As is the case across many parts of a business, certain equipment in campsites must be tested annually or at other intervals, for example PAT tests or fire extinguishers.”

Andrew added:“When setting up a campsite, business owners should also consider why a visitor would use their land instead of others’,  insurance, public liability insurance, tax implications, security and business budgeting.  Campsite owners must also provide visitors with certain information before accepting a booking, such as pricing, payment and cancellation terms.  My top tip for anyone considering creating a new camp site,  would be to review other camp sites to see what they do, how they do it and grab any tips to help.

“Some of our clients have a great opportunity here, especially with retail food shops and toilets already in place.  Those with cafes also create another attraction for campers – who doesn’t want a farm shop breakfast to start the day off?

“Additionally, we have been working with businesses looking to improve their facilities in retail, catering and visitor attractions, which give additional benefits to the additional visitors that camp sites bring.  If anyone wants to discuss specific needs of their site or look at potential for their land, they can contact me and I would be happy to have a discussion with them.  I’d encourage anyone considering using some land for a campsite to give us a call to see if there is potential and opportunity”.

For further details, contact Malcolm Scott Consultants’ free advice line on 01905 726353.