July 2021 UPDATE:
These limits now have been extended further: for example, you may now be able to open every weekend until the end of October. On 28th June 2021, the government issued a statement (press release) that “local authorities should not seek to undertake enforcement action against potential breaches of planning control concerning temporary commercial campsites for leisure use which do not harm 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”.
The government statement applies until 31st October 2021. If you wish to site tents and/or facilities for longer than the current limits (56 days in England and Wales, 28 in Scotland and Northern Ireland), we would recommend checking first with your planning department.
The statement does not remove the requirement for a camping licence (for tents being on the land for over 42 consecutive days or over 60 non-consecutive days). However, the government “will work with local authorities to facilitate a quick licensing process this summer, and authorities are encouraged to expedite new applications for licences to provide certainty for applicants”.
Because a licence is only required when tents are on the land, this would enable a longer season for temporary campsites by enabling moveable structures to be sited for more than 56 days without a planning application (i.e. up to 60 non-consecutive days of tent camping without needing a camping licence, with moveable facilities on the land for longer).
- In Wales, 28-day (tent) campsites can now open for 56 days (between 30th April 2021 and 3rd January 2022) under permitted development rights
- 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 (beyond just permitted development rights), with the example given of “local authorities exploring the scope for the temporary use of car parks or other appropriate locations for overnight stops in campervans and motorhomes” (for example Highland Council)
- 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”
Many tent campsites operate under the ’28-day rule’ (now 56), a form of ‘permitted development’ allowing land to be used without planning permission ‘for any purpose for not more than 28 (now 56) days in total in any calendar year…and the provision on the land of any moveable structures for the permitted use‘.
This suits the typical summer campsite perfectly, allowing not only tent camping but also portable buildings for ablutions and reception.
While you can now open without planning permission for longer, 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 are no requirements for the 28 (now 56) days to run consecutively, many owners ‘cherry picks’ the busiest periods, sacrificing some of the summers to open over spring bank-holiday weekends. Technically, however, the land must be restored to its original condition between the periods of use, and any moveable structures removed, so a continuous period of 56 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 56-day periods on different parcels or ‘planning units’ of land. Generally, an area of land under the same owner would be a single planning unit restricted to one 56-day period, but 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 the 56-day 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.
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 English, Scottish and Welsh 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, planning permission 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 planning permission is required you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate or discuss the matter informally with your local planning department
similarly, planning permission may still be required for new engineering work to install drains, electricity, roads, etc. However, minor development may be excused under the ‘de minimise principle
- a separate licence may still be required for certain types of moveable facilities, such as a takeaway van
- trailer tents qualify for permitted development, but caravans (definition) do not. This prevents touring caravans and motorhomes/campervans from being site, 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 the status with your local planning department
(b) No caravan site licence required
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)
(c) Work required by site licence
Any development required to comply with the conditions of a site licence is permitted development. (Source: England Wales Scotland)
(d) Scotland further response to COVID-19
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.
(e) England further response to COVID-19
The government’s written ministerial statement in June 2021 encouraged 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”.