Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a renewed demand for domestic holidays which has presented an opportunity for farmers and landowners to tap into a new income stream in the form of a pop-up campsite.
These temporary sites helped prevent the need for people to wild camp when demand outstripped supply, and those listed on the campsite booking website Pitchup.com are estimated to have brought £25m to the rural economy over the last year. In the current cost-of-living crisis, the popularity of camping holidays is likely to continue.
Pop-up campsites could previously only operate for 28 days a year. In 2020 the Government introduced a temporary right to allow a campsite to operate for 56 days without the need to apply for planning permission. The Government has announced that from 5th July 2023, pop-up campsites can operate for up to 60 days per calendar year, with up to 50 pitches at any one time. This does not allow for the siting of caravans, motorhomes and campervans, and a licence is required if the site operates for more than 42 consecutive days.
The proposed development right broadly aligns with the licensing regime as you do not need a licence to run a campsite if it operates on fewer than 42 consecutive days, or fewer than 60 days in any 12-month period.
If you would enjoy welcoming campers to your farm, there are some things to consider:
Carefully consider the most appropriate site. It needs to be an accessible, flat field away from neighbouring properties. It must not be near a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or any historic site.
While there is no requirement for an environmental assessment to be carried out for pop-up campsites, landowners must act responsibly. To protect the environment, limit the number of tents, ask campers to avoid lighting campfires and provide bins to prevent littering.
You will need to ensure the use of the land as a pop-up campsite does not disturb any natural features or wildlife habitats.
If you do not own the land on which the campsite is to be situated, you will need to check if this is permitted by your tenancy agreement. If this only permits agricultural use, then you could be in breach, and run the risk of the landlord bringing the tenancy to an end. If you are in doubt, seek advice from your solicitor or land agent.
Portable toilets, a handwashing area and fresh water will be needed for campers. Mats, particularly in gateways, may also be needed on wet ground and you will need to arrange for rubbish to be taken away.
A full risk assessment must be carried out before any temporary site can open to ensure the safety of visitors. You’ll also need to be fully covered for public liability insurance before welcoming guests. This can usually be provided by your land insurer.
Under permitted development rights, temporary campsites can open for 28 days a year. This doesn’t have to be a continuous period. You might choose to open at peak times such as weekends and school holidays, giving you the breaks in between to focus on other business needs.
Offering your pitches at the right price could be the difference between a lucrative temporary income stream or time wasted on getting everything in place to find you have no take-up. Research other sites in your area to ensure your prices are competitive.
VAT needs careful consideration and will usually be payable on any campsite fees charged. This needs to be accounted for when pricing your pitches.
Taking land out of agricultural use for two months should not result in losing Agricultural Property Relief for Inheritance Tax purposes, provided it goes back to being grazed by livestock afterwards.