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UK Law for starting a campsites

There are several methods of starting a Campsite in the UK, each having their own merits and limitations. So If you are thinking of starting your own campsite this guide will help you to decide which option is best for you and what you may require before you start your site. This is not a legal document and should be treated as a guide only  (* This guide is based on English law which may differ from laws in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Before undertaking any development independent planning advice should be sought).

What legislation applies to UK caravan and campsites

There are 4 main pieces of legislation which set out the legal allowance of operating a campsite in the UK. These are:

This act sets out the requirement of change of use of land and any construction required to establish a caravan/camp site.

This order sets out some basic allowances for campsite to operate without need for specific planning approval. Part 4 of the order gives land owners 28 days of use for most purposes and part 5 sets out provisions for sites to be used under exemption conditions in the legislation below.

This act is the primary piece of legislation which sets out the requirements, condition and exemptions for a caravan sites to operate. This act does not apply to tent campsites.

There are also model standards for campsite to adhere to when planning approval has been granted. There are different model standards for touring sites, static sites and residential park home sites.

This act sets out the requirements and exemptions for tent campsites.



Sets out the right of responsible non-motorised access, for recreational and other purposes in Scotland


Types of campsite:

  • Permitted site
  • Certified sites
  • Planning approved sites

Permitted sites

A permitted site is a caravan or campsite that does not require specific planning approval from a local authority or certificate from an exempted organisation. Sites of this nature are generally referred to as pop up campsites or stopovers.

Pop up campsite are permissible under the 28 day temporary use of land, permitted development right set out in the GPD order 2015 class B part 4 schedule 2. This allows the use of land as a campsite for any 28 days in a 12 month period. Pop up sites are not permitted within the curtilage of a building ( garden ) and can not accept caravans, motor homes or campervans.

Stop over sites are caravan sites that can accept 1 caravan or motor home for upto 2 consecutive nights for any 28 days in a 12 month period. The Britstop scheme makes use of this exemption to allow motor homes to stay in car parks at pubs, vineyards and shops. This right of use is set out in class A part 5 schedule 2 of the GPD order and paragraph 2 of the 1st schedule the caravan site act and legal responsibility for the site falls to the land owner.

5 acre sites are land holdings that comprise of 5 or more acres of land which have no buildings. These sites can accept upto 3 caravans on any 28 days in a 12 month period.

There are also provisions for land to be used in connection with agriculture, forestry, construction, travelling showmen and local authorities.

Campsites of all type are also required to comply with the fire safety act. Please read

Certified sites

A certified site / location is a caravan/camp site that has been approved for use as a caravan/campsite by an organisation that has been granted exemption status under paragraph 12 of the caravan site act and/or paragraph 6 of the public health act. The organisation may issue a certificate allowing the land to be used as a campsite without need for change of use planning approval for recreational activities only.

Exemption certificates

Paragraph 4 certificate. This certificate allows the use of land as a caravan site under the supervision of an exempted organisation for temporary use. Generally activities that occur under this paragraph are known as rallies or temporary holiday sites. There are no legal limitations to the duration or capacity of activities on these sites however Natural England would normally limit the duration to 28 days as a condition of certification. Events operated under this certificate are open to every one, however the club must provide a person onsite to supervise activities.

Paragraph 5 certificate. This certificate allows the use of land as a caravan site for upto 5 caravans. There is no legal limitation to the duration a caravan can remain on site however the use of certified site is strictly for recreational purposes therefore most clubs limit continuous occupation by an individual to 28 days. The caravan sites act does state that the site is for use of members of the respective organisation, however does not explicitly restrict use to members only, therefore the opinion of Natural England and our club is that these site are open to non members.

Paragraph 6 certificates. This certificate allows the use of land as a caravan site for meeting of club members. Meets are not limited by capacity but are limited to 5 days duration.

Paragraph 6 of section 269. This certificate allows the use of land as a tent campsite for recreational purposes. There is no limit of duration or capacity however organisations must ensure sites used under this exemption are kept in good sanitary condition do not give rise to nuisance.


When an area of land has been granted exemption by an exempted organisation the use of that land is permissible by Class A and Class C of part 5 schedule 2 the GPDO 2015.

There can be no other caravans on land to which a paragraph 5 certificate relates for the purpose of human habitation. Land to which a certificate relates to can not be subdivided therefore any caravan within the same planning unit would render an exemption unlawful. To determine if you land is a single or multiple planning units the test set out in Burdle V The Secretary of State for the Environment should be applied.


Other case law to be considered

  • Ralls V The Secretary of State for the Environment
  • Rawlings V The Secretary of State
  • Woolley Valley Action Group Ltd v Bath and North East Somerset Council

Planning approved sites

Sites that have been approved by the local authority to operate as a campsite under the town and country planning act, the caravan site act and/or the public health act. These sites are generally commercial site of considerable size. These sites must comply with the caravan site act requirements, caravan site model standards and any condition set out in planning approval issued by the local authority.

When is camping or caravanning illegal

To camp or use a caravan for human habitation on land in England requires express permission from the land owner and the land owner must ensure they have sufficient rights to allow camping or caravanning on the site. It is illegal to camp or use a caravan/motor home/campervan for human habitation on unadopted land, carparks or in laybuys other than those with express permission granted such as motorway service or truck stopovers.

* Scotland land reform allow non motorised wild camping on any land however permission should be sought for the land owner. The gives further guidance on Scottish sites

What is a caravan

The Legal Definition of a Caravan

Section 29 (1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 defined a caravan as:

“… Any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another (whether being towed, or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer) and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted but does not include

(A) Any railway rolling stock which is for the time being on rails forming part of a system, or

(B) Any tent”

What is a tent

There is no legal definition of a tent however the generally accepted definition is:

A portable shelter made of cloth, supported by one or more poles and stretched tight by cords or loops attached to pegs driven into the ground

Planning permission is only needed if the work being carried out meets the statutory definition of ‘development’ which is set out in Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

‘Development’ includes:

building operations (e.g. structural alterations, construction, rebuilding, most demolition);
material changes of use of land and buildings;
engineering operations (e.g. groundworks);
mining operations;
other operations normally undertaken by a person carrying on a business as a builder.
subdivision of a building (including any part it) used as a dwellinghouse for use as two or more separate dwellinghouses

The categories of work that do not amount to ‘development’ are set out in Section 55(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. These include, but are not limited to the following:

interior alterations (except mezzanine floors which increase the floorspace of retail premises by more than 200 square metres)
building operations which do not materially affect the external appearance of a building. The term ‘materially affect’ has no statutory definition, but is linked to the significance of the change which is made to a building’s external appearance.

** Caution. Use of portable structures as permanent buildings. The sitting of a portable structure where the intent is to retain that structure permanently may require planning approval regardless of its ability to be moved. A portable toilet block that is connected to water, drainage or electricity is likely to require planning approval.


Permitted development for campsite amenities

Fences and walls

Part 2 GPD order 2015
Class A – gates, fences, walls etc

A. The erection, construction, maintenance, improvement or alteration of a gate, fence, wall or other means of enclosure.

Development not permitted
A.1 Development is not permitted by Class A if—
(a) the height of any gate, fence, wall or means of enclosure erected or constructed adjacent
to a highway used by vehicular traffic would, after the carrying out of the development,
(i) for a school, 2 metres above ground level, provided that any part of the gate, fence,
wall or means of enclosure which is more than 1 metre above ground level does not
create an obstruction to the view of persons using the highway as to be likely to
cause danger to such persons;
(ii) in any other case, 1 metre above ground level;
(b) the height of any other gate, fence, wall or means of enclosure erected or constructed
would exceed 2 metres above ground level;
(c) the height of any gate, fence, wall or other means of enclosure maintained, improved or
altered would, as a result of the development, exceed its former height or the height
referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) as the height appropriate to it if erected or constructed,
whichever is the greater; or
(d) it would involve development within the curtilage of, or to a gate, fence, wall or other
means of enclosure surrounding, a listed building.

Interpretation of Class A
A.2 For the purposes of Class A, “school” includes—
(a) premises which have changed use under Class S or T of Part 3 of this Schedule (changes
of use) to become a state-funded school or registered nursery as defined in paragraph X of
Part 3; and
(b) a building permitted by Class C of Part 4 of this Schedule (temporary buildings and uses)
to be used temporarily as a school, from the date the local planning authority is notified as
provided in paragraph C.2(b) of Part 4.


Part 2 GPD order 2015

Class B – means of access to a highway

B. The formation, laying out and construction of a means of access to a highway which is not a trunk road or a classified road, where that access is required in connection with development permitted by any Class in this schedule (other than by Class A of this Part).


Classes of advertisement benefiting from deemed consent

Class 2(C) permits notices or signs which relate to: ● any religious, educational, cultural, recreational, medical or similar institution; or ● any hotel, inn or public house, block of flats, club, boarding-house or hostel; provided that the advertisement is displayed at the premises and does not exceed 1.2 square metres in area. If there is more than one entrance to the premises on different road frontages, two advertisements of 1.2 square metres each may be displayed (each on a separate frontage)


A number of categories of flag may be flown without consent, subject to certain restrictions regarding the size of the flag, the size of characters on the flag, and the number and location of the flags. Categories of flag that can now be flown

1 : • House flag - flag is allowed to display the name, emblem, device or trademark of the company (or person) occupying the building, or can refer to a specific event of limited duration that is taking place in the building from which the flag is flown
• Any sports club (but cannot include sponsorship logos)
• The horizontal striped rainbow flag, such as the “Pride” Flag
• Specified award schemes - Eco-Schools, Queens Awards for Enterprise and Investors in People

Flying one or two flags within the grounds of a building You can now fly up to two flags (before the changes only one flag was allowed) within the grounds (the regulations refer to “curtilage”) of a building subject to the conditions listed below:
• There are no restrictions on the size of the flag, but any flagpole may not exceed 4.6 metres above ground level
• Consent is required if the flag is to be flown in a controlled area
• Up to two flags can be flown without consent in the grounds of a building, but only one flag can be flown within the grounds of a building if another flag is either being flown from the roof, or is projecting from the building

Change of use of buildings

Part 3, Class R – agricultural buildings to a flexible commercial use

Permitted development
R. Development consisting of a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a flexible use falling within Class A1 (shops), Class A2 (financial and professional services), Class A3 (restaurants and cafes), Class B1 (business), Class B8 (storage or distribution), Class C1 (hotels) or Class D2 (assembly and leisure) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order.

Development not permitted
R.1 Development is not permitted by Class R if—
(a) the building was not used solely for an agricultural use as part of an established
agricultural unit—
(i) on 3rd July 2012;
(ii) in the case of a building which was in use before that date but was not in use on that
date, when it was last in use, or
(iii) in the case of a building which was brought into use after 3rd July 2012, for a period
of at least 10 years before the date development under Class R begins;
(b) the cumulative floor space of buildings which have changed use under Class R within an established agricultural unit exceeds 500 square metres;
(c) the site is, or forms part of, a military explosives storage area;
(d) the site is, or forms part of, a safety hazard area; or
(e) the building is a listed building or a scheduled monument.