In order to open a campsite in the UK, you typically need planning permission and a campsite licence. However, if you are considering running your Hipcamp for just a short length of time, you may be able to do so under “permitted development rights”. That means without having to apply for full planning. These rights include what has traditionally been known as “the 28-day rule”, though it has very recently been extended for longer in England (see below). It is a handy and sensible bit of legislation that is widely used by many Hipcamp hosts running temporary, short-term, or pop-up campsites.
Permitted development rights are convenient in allowing casual campsites to operate without too much red tape. The rights were not originally designed specifically to allow camping. In fact, the regulations allow land to be used for almost any temporary purpose for up to 28 days, for example, as an overflow carpark, or for a temporary event. To quote the letter of the law, The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 states in Schedule 2, Part 4 that permitted development Class B is:
“The use of any land for any purpose for not more than 28 days in total in any calendar year… and the provision on the land of any moveable structure for the purposes of the permitted use.”
The last line is an added bonus for budding campsite owners, since it means that any temporary facilities are a-okay too—as long as they are provided in moveable structures: portable toilets and showers, for example.
On 5th July, the English parliament updated the temporary development rights to create new allowances for campsites in England (the new Class BC amendment). These include extending the duration permitted for camping to up to 60 days per calendar year. Effectively, the 28-day rule in England, will now become the 60-day rule.
The amendment came into effect on 26th July 2023 and runs concurrently with the existing 28-day rules for one year. This means, for one year, you can choose whether you operate under the ‘old’ 28-day rule or the ‘new’ 60-day rule. The new 60-day rule comes with some important updates:
For hosts running temporary campsites, the result for 2023 is essentially a dual system. Hosts can offer camping for an unlimited number of tents with slightly less ‘paperwork’ for 28 days. Or you can adapt now to the new 60-day rule and open for a longer period of time – this is particularly recommended if you already offer fewer than 50 pitches on your campsite.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that all of the information above is specific to England. In particular, the new extended rights that cover up to 60 days of camping, apply to England only.
If you are hoping to open a temporary Hipcamp in another part of the UK, the good news is that there’s a pretty joined-up approach to permitted development rights and there are relevant and similar laws for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland too. In the past, when there have been temporary changes to the rights (such as during the covid pandemic when the 28-day rule was extended), the different parts of the UK largely mirrored each other. For this reason, we are hopeful that Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, may also follow England in extending the Permitted Development Rights to 60 days in the coming years.
In the meantime, the 28-day rule still broadly applies across other parts of the UK, apart from very specific areas that have been given added protection (see below). If you’re not sure whether your local area is impacted, we recommend checking with your local planning authority.
Whether you plan to operate a 28-day or 60-day campsite, there are a few other limitations to bear in mind:
Confusingly, while the new Class BC amendment has extended the amount of time you can offer camping without planning permission to 60 days in England, the separate legislation for campsite licences has not changed. This means that, although you can operate for 60 days without planning permission, you might still need to apply for a campsite licence.
You need a camping licence to pitch tents for more than 42 consecutive days or more than 60 days total within a calendar year. An easy solution, therefore, is to insert a short gap within the operation of your 60-day campsite, for example, a one-day break, to avoid having a consecutive 42-day period. This way, you do not require a camping licence.
Although the new Class BC amendment also lets you host campervans and motorhomes without planning permission, pitching campervans or motorhomes for any length of time does still require a caravan site licence (unless you qualify for an exemption). You can find out more about licence requirements at the dedicated article: What is a campsite licence and do I need one?
The limited days allowed by permitted development rights do not have to run consecutively so you can cherry-pick dates to suit you—or operate for one longer stint. Some Hipcamps only open on weekends across spring and summer, some operate on half-term holidays and bank holiday weekends, while the vast majority open for one fixed period, such as the four weeks of July or August. It’s worth bearing in mind that there is always a higher demand for camping on weekends and during school holidays.
It is important, however, to consider the fact that any dates when tents or facilities remain on site (even if unused) count towards your limit. Under the new 60-day rules in England, you are required to submit your site’s opening and closing dates to your local authority in advance. Outside of these times, you’ll need to ensure your land is returned to its original state.
Under current law, if you want to run your Hipcamp for longer than 60 days in England, or 28 days in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, you must apply for planning permission. Depending on how long you open for, you may also need to apply for a campsite licence.
If you want to run a temporary tent-focused campsite for just the very peak summer season, operating under permitted development rights is the easiest way to do so. It also offers a viable way for farmers and landowners to supplement the income of their main business in the summer season.
As long as the land you are operating on is not subject to an Article 4 direction and is not in a garden setting, the temporary rules allow you to set up your Hipcamp without needing to seek full planning permission. Though, before you go hammering a sign to direct campers into your field, do read up on the other responsibilities that go hand in hand with running a campsite. You can also find out more about hosting on Hipcamp here.
The 28-day or 60-day rule is also a great way to test the waters with a new business. Many of the most established campsites in the UK first started out as 28-day campsites and became so successful that they evolved into the fully fledged businesses people know and love today. So, if you’re thinking of starting a campsite but want to start small, operating under permitted development rights for your first season is a great way to begin. It lets you start quickly, provides you with time to learn and establish yourself, and may also provide a good case study for if you later apply for planning permission.
This is a rough guide to permitted development rights as they apply to camping. If you are investigating how to start a campsite, we’d recommend further reading around the subject. If you are in any doubt as to whether you can operate under permitted development rights, you may want to apply to your local planning authority for a Certificate of Lawful Development.
This article was created by the Hipcamp team based on our years of experience, research, and local understanding. However, please note that this is still only our interpretation of UK regulations and does not constitute legal advice. Hipcamp does not accept responsibility for errors and omissions. Different conditions may apply depending on your individual circumstances and we recommend seeking professional advice on implementing the rules.
This article was first published on 18th March 2023 and last updated on 26th July 2023.
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