The UK currently has no network of officially recognised places where motorhomes and campervans can stay overnight, other than formal campsites or the simpler CS/CL 5 van sites which are approved by some clubs for the use of their members. This is in stark contrast to other countries in Europe where there are quite extensive networks of stopovers, which are often referred to as Aires.
There are certain regulations that apply in the UK, such as site licences and planning consent (see below for a resume of the legislation regarding site licences) for places that want to allow more than the occasional motorhome or caravan to stay overnight. If you want to provide facilities for motorhomes to stop overnight on your land you will need to know how to go about it.
Current legislation in the form of The Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 ('the 1960 Act') requires, apart from the exemptions detailed below, that anyone accepting motorhomes and campervans to stay on their land must have a site licence and planning permission from the local authority.
Stopovers or aires on private land
As noted in our resume of the legislation below, some exemptions to the regulations are allowed. The most commonly used one is being granted an Exemption Certificate by an *Exempted Organisation. This grants permission for up to 5 motorhomes or campervans to stay on the land without the need for a site licence or planning permission from the local authority. Public Liability Insurance must be in place but otherwise there are no special requirements, providing that there is enough space for a few motorhomes to park of course! It is usual, but not essential, for there to be access to an outside tap for fresh water and also somewhere to empty chemical toilets.
Anyone operating a stopover site without an Exemption Certificate, or local authority approval, may find themselves in trouble for operating a 'caravan site' without the proper consents.
* Exempted Organisation are clubs that are authorised by Natural England to issue Exemption Certificates. Natural England carries out checks to ascertain that the clubs are properly constituted and run, and that they have the appropriate expertise to manage the certificate issuing and monitoring processes.
Several organisations can issue Exemption Certificates but most of them restrict the use of their approved locations to their own members. The whole point of motorhome stopovers or aires is that they should be open to all.
CAMpRA (The Campaign for Real Aires) is an organisation set up with the specific purpose of encouraging and assisting landowners who want to accept motorhomes and campervans to stay overnight, they can give advice and will assist with the process of obtaining Exemption Certificates - there is no membership requirement and it's all free of charge. See www.campra.org.uk for more information.
It is our opinion that getting an Exemption Certificate through CAMpRA is currently the best way of setting up a stopover or aire for motorhomes on privately owned land.
It is certainly possible for private landowners to set up a stopover for motorhomes without applying for an Exemption Certificate, in this case it is necessary to apply for a site licence and planning consent from the local authority. You would need to comply with their requirements, with luck they may be sympathetic to your plans! One advantage of taking this route is that, depending on the size of the land you have available, it is possible to accommodate more than 5 motorhomes or campervans at any one time.
Stopovers or aires on local authority land
For local authority (LA) controlled land there is no need for an Exemption Certificate as this land is, under the 1960 Act, exempted from the requirement for site licences already, and the limit of 5 motorhomes or campervans that exists for Exemption Certificates does not apply. All that's needed is for the LA to give permission for motorhomes and campervans to stay overnight, without imposing restrictions on eating, sleeping, cooking, etc. In the case of car parks where a LA wants to permit overnight stays there will usually be a need to revise Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs), which often include restriction on sleeping/eating etc. For trial periods a Temporary TRO (TTRO) can be introduced, this is easier and cheaper that revising an existing TRO. In some cases planning consent for change of use may be required, this will be up to the local planning department.
CAMPRA has expertise in working with LA's to set up aires and is happy to offer advice, contact via the website www.campra.org.uk where additional information can be found.
Legislation regarding Stopovers and the 'parking, not camping' myth
It is argued by some that so called 'campsite legislation' does not apply if you are just parking your motorhome or campervan to sleep in, and not putting anything outside. Unfortunately this is not the case.
In law, at least as regards the places where they may be stationed for the purposes of human habitation, motorhomes, campervans, and in fact all vehicles with living facilities, are included within the definition of a 'caravan' . The 1960 Act states that a caravan is defined as:
" ... any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another (whether by being towed, or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer) and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted ..."
The 1960 Act introduced the licencing of caravan sites, and defines a 'caravan site' as " ... land on which a caravan is stationed for the purposes of human habitation and land which is used in conjunction with land on which a caravan is so stationed." Certain exemptions are allowed from the licencing requirements of the Act, these are detailed in Schedule 1 of the Act and include:
" ... the use of land as a caravan site if the use is incidental to the enjoyment as such of a dwellinghouse within the curtilage of which the land is situated."
Meaning that, for example, you may occupy a caravan situated in your garden.
" ... the use of land as a caravan site by a person travelling with a caravan who brings the caravan on to the land for a period which includes not more than two nights—
if during that period no other caravan is stationed for the purposes of human habitation on that land or any adjoining land in the same occupation, and
if, in the period of twelve months ending with the day on which the caravan is brought on to the land, the number of days on which a caravan was stationed anywhere on that land or the said adjoining land for the purposes of human habitation did not exceed twenty-eight. "
This is the exemption which permits pubs, for example, to allow a motorhome to stay overnight on their car park. However only one motorhome is permitted at any one time and the landowner can only permit his land to be used for a maximum of 28 days in any period of 12 months. It does not, of course, give a right to station a caravan on any land, it simply means that the landowner does not need a caravan site licence. There may also be other, local, restrictions in force which prevent landowners permitting the stationing of a caravan on their land.
" ... land as respects which there is in force a certificate issued under this paragraph by an exempted organisation if not more than five caravans are at the time stationed for the purposes of human habitation on the land to which the certificate relates.
(2) For the purposes of this paragraph an exempted organisation may issue as respects any land a certificate stating that the land has been approved by the exempted organisation for use by its members for the purposes of recreation."
This allows 'Exempted Organisations' such as The Caravan & Motorhome Club, The Camping and Caravanning Club, the Motor Caravanners' Club, and Motorhome Fun, among others, to set up CL (Certificated Location) and CS (Certificated Site) sites for use by their members. Whether the use of the sites is restricted to members only is up to the individual clubs to decide. As far as we know only the Motor Caravanners' Club and Motorhome Fun allow non-members to use their exempted sites.
" ... land occupied by the local authority in whose area the land is situated."
This is the most interesting exemption as far as the setting up of Stopovers is concerned, it allows local authorities to permit motorhomes to stay overnight on, for example, car parks or other land in their control.
The full text of The Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 is here .