Richard Goodwin, rural surveyor for the Country Land and Business Association’s (CLA) Midlands region, discusses planning for those seeking to enter the exciting, and potentially rewarding, world of glamping.
Far from the holiday experience of soggy sleeping bags, cramped tents and communal facilities, glamping is all about providing outstanding accommodation – ranging from shepherds’ huts and gypsy wagons to opulent yurts and geodesic domes – in spectacular locations. Glamping is a great way of diversifying to yield a good income from land and can bring relatively fast returns on investment. So it’s no surprise that many landowners are choosing to maximise the potential of their property by creating sites to host would-be glampers.
So, you’re considering the glamping route but where to start? Your location, and the way in which it impacts on your potential site, is as pertinent to the final decision as the accommodation, facilities and services you aim to provide. Access to and from, proximity to attractions and local shops, even the opinions of neighbours, all are vital when evaluating the suitability of your site. Then there are the practicalities: the availability of utilities (water and sewage, gas, electricity, internet connectivity); business rates; the expected occupation and operation periods; the choice of permanent or temporary structures; Health & Safety regulations; and, not least, whether planning permission is required.
Where should you be looking for information regarding the need, or otherwise, for planning permission? For starters, a little legwork is required in investigating the type and location of existing tourist accommodation. The discovery of nearby glamping facilities may initially quell your aspirations but will certainly provide precedent evidence for a planning application. Your second port of call will be the Local Plan Policy which sets out the strategic priorities for development of an area and gives guidance on what will and won’t be permitted.
Paramount to planning permission is National Designation. Certain areas of countryside can be ‘designated’ which means they have special status as protected areas due to their natural and cultural importance. There are restrictions on activities and developments that might affect a designated or protected area, eg. building new houses or roads. If protected area restrictions apply you might need to do certain things such as: obtain permission from the local council and Natural England; carry out an ecological survey; and, carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Do you need Permission?
So, do you need planning permission? The key issue is to decide whether a temporary structure constitutes ‘development’ in which case planning permission is required. A ‘development’ can be either a ‘building or engineering operation’ or a ‘material change in the use of land.’ However, in some cases in which planning permission is required it is deemed already to have been granted, under a General Permitted Development Order. In these ‘permitted development’ cases no application is needed.
What constitutes ‘building and engineering operations’? Each case will turn on its individual merits but courts, in judging whether something amounts to a ‘building operation’, have consistently looked at three main factors: size; permanence; and, physical attachment. This approach was endorsed by the Court of Appeal in a case that concerned the erection of a large 40x17m marquee within the grounds of a hotel. The Court held that the marquee, which was erected on the lawn “…every year for a period of eight months was, due to its ample dimensions, its permanent rather than fleeting character and the secure nature of its anchorage, to be regarded as a building operation. The annual removal of the marquee did not deprive it of the quality of permanence. Permanence did not necessarily connote that the state of affairs was to continue forever or indefinitely.”
The same tests were applied in the High Court where it was held that poly tunnels covering a total area of 30-40ha, in place for up to seven months of the year and attached to the ground with metal hoops, did involve a building operation. It seems clear that the erection of a large marquee, or any such substantial structure, for several months of the year is a building operation and is, therefore, development requiring planning permission.
However, a structure which is smaller, less permanent, and/or not substantially attached may not constitute a building operation. It will depend on the individual facts of each case. Three months could be enough to create ‘permanence’ if the structures are very large but a small- or medium-sized structure, in place for a few months and held in place by weight rather than fixings, may not. Any significant ground preparation works for a temporary structure could in themselves constitute a building or engineering operation requiring planning permission.
In addition, development can consist of a ‘material change in the use of the land’. Even where a temporary structure is not a building operation, planning permission would be needed if its use amounted to a material change of use. For example, a marquee for one or two private parties in the garden of a house should not be a change of use because such parties are incidental to the enjoyment of’ houses and their gardens. However, a marquee regularly hired out commercially for a number of parties, or used for retail purposes, probably would amount to a material change of use because these are essentially a business use. Conversely, a hotel using a marquee for parties would probably not involve a material change of use.
If you do need planning permission, when submitting your application it will help to include details of the economic benefits, in terms of income to the area, employment and potential benefits to other local businesses.
Planning application fees vary widely depending on the size of the proposed operation and the works required. As an example, to change the use of a piece of land to tourism would attract a fee of £385 per 0.1 hectare. Your local planning authority can provide an accurate figure, and the Planning Portal has a full list of fees.
After submission the local authority will publicise the planning application to members of the public and consultees, such as the local parish council, the Environment Agency, tourist boards and any agencies responsible for designated areas. After receiving these responses and comments the authority will then produce a summary of the application along with its decision to approve or refuse it.
When might planning permission not be required?
If the land is to be used for a limited time period and the activity will have minimal impact upon the area, it is possible planning permission and licences would not be required. Scenarios in such cases would be: tent pitches for no more than 28 days of camping within the year; a single caravan on a piece of land for no more than two nights, up to 28 days a year; more than three caravans on a piece of land over five acres for no more than 28 days; and, if the site is occupied and supervised by an exempted organisation such as the Camping and Caravanning Club.
When might a site licence be required?
A caravan site is defined as any land on which a caravan is stationed for human habitation together with land used in association. Subject to permitted development rights, a caravan site, therefore, requires both planning permission and a site licence before it can operate. A site licence has to be applied for separately, following the granting of planning permission. While planning permission attaches to the land, the site licence is held by the occupier and is non-transferable without the prior consent of the local authority. Licence conditions are likely to cover the following issues: boundaries; spacing between caravans; roads, gates and footpaths; hard standings; fire fighting appliances; storage of LPG; electrical installations; water supply; drainage and sanitation; refuse disposal; parking; recreation space; notices, etc.
What if my site is in a designated area?
A glamping site may be permitted in a designated area (Green Belts, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Areas of Outstanding Beauty, National Parks, etc) in exceptional circumstances. Proposals in these areas may require higher standards of design, layout and landscaping and preference may be given to small sites over large sites. So, pre-application discussions with the local planning authority are encouraged to resolve any potentially contentious issues. If planning permission or a Certificate of Lawfulness for an Existing Use (CLEU) has been issued, a site licence must be issued.
What are the options if my site is designated a ‘Certified’ site?
If your land is approved by an exempted organisation it is possible planning permission and licences would not be required. For example, the Camping and Caravanning Club holds exemptions from Natural England which allows it to certify small caravan and campsites for use by club members. Once certified you would be able to: accommodate up to five caravans or motorhomes and 10 tents at any one time including glamping pods; be open all year round if you wish, or you can specify your opening months; and, keep all of the site fees. Certification can be for full sites (caravans, motorhomes and tents/pods), caravan only sites and also tent only sites (also suitable for sites where access is particularly poor). However, whether the member is camping in a tent, caravan, motor caravan or trailer tent, they may only camp on your site for a maximum of 28 days at a time.
If you are not next door to a licensed site, there’s a good chance you would qualify. You will need at least half an acre of fairly level land and safe access and egress from the site. A certified site officer will assess this for you but the assessment is based on approximately 100m of clear view in either direction. It doesn’t matter if you have a narrow or single track lane either, provided there is good visibility and enough passing places. The facilities you will need to provide before a certificate is issued are: a drinking water tap; a rinsing water tap (for swilling out toilet cassettes); dry waste disposal (something as simple as a bin that can be emptied regularly); and, a chemical disposal point.
What is the Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (CLEUD)?
If you have already erected temporary structures without planning permission you can seek a CLEUD under s191 of the 1990 Act. After four years (for ‘operational development’) and 10 years (for ‘material changes of use’) a CLEUD must be granted automatically, even if the activity was not legal. In some cases this may be a better starting point than a planning application, which the LPA of course has discretion to refuse. The application of this rule to temporary structures can be uncertain but the CLA is aware of cases in which CLEUDs have confirmed the legitimacy of temporary structures and uses over a wide area of land.
It is important to note that the local planning authority can take enforcement action if there is a breach in planning law. In such cases it is possible to apply for retrospective planning permission and, if this is denied, appeals may be made to the planning inspectorate.
A well constructed, accurate planning application will make the whole process easier, and I would strongly recommend taking advice before submitting your application. As well as talking it through with a membership organisation such as the CLA, you will find most planning officers happy to advise you on the best way to proceed before you commit time and money on your application.
- Town and Country Planning Act 1990: this contains the legal provisions for planning as a whole including the use and changes of use of land and buildings. www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/8/contents
- The Caravans and Control of Development Act 1960: this sets out the requirements for the system of licensing caravan sites by local authorities (on which some of the planning requirements are based). www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/8-9/62/contents
- The Caravans Sites Act 1968: this Act amended the definition of caravan contained in the 1960 Act. www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/52/contents
- Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (GPDO 2015): Part 5 Caravan sites and recreational campsites. www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/596/contents/made
- The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) – www.cla.org.uk
- Camping and Caravanning Club – www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk
- Protected Areas – www.gov.uk/check-your-business-protected-area
- Lawful Development – www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission/next/lawfuldevelopmentcertificate
About the Author
A qualified charted surveyor with considerable experience of diversification in rural areas, Richard Goodwin MRICS advises CLA members on all aspects of land management. A farmer’s son, he graduated from Harper Adams University with a degree in Rural Enterprise and Land Management before qualifying as a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
About the CLA
An independent and authoritative source of advice for owners of agricultural and rural land, no matter how much or how little, The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) brings a century of experience to members considering diversifying their core business to benefit from new market opportunities such as glamping. The CLA is best placed to advise on planning law as well as guiding members through the maze of current funding opportunities. www.cla.org.uk