Calls for more 'pop-up' campsites as demand surges

By Rebecca Wearn
Business reporter, BBC News

image copyrightFiona Kirby
image captionFiona Kirby says relaxing the rules is a "no-brainer"

Rural businesses and landowners are urging the government to further relax regulations to enable more temporary campsites to pop up this summer.

One such pitch is behind the Devonshire Arms, in the heart of the Peak District.

Landlady Fiona Kirby is offering pitches for £15 a night in a small grassy meadow.

"We've got this big expanse that we don't really use to its best ability," she said.

The facilities are basic, just a tap, but it meets two needs: the huge demand for UK breaks from holidaymakers and boosting the coffers of a struggling inn by enticing diners through the door.

For Fiona, it's been a no-brainer: "I've been amazed. We've been full every night we've been open. And all I've had to do is mow the lawn."

From last year, as the pandemic hit, landowners could set up a temporary site for 56 days without planning permission, rather than the usual 28.

But the campaign group Carry on Camping argues this just isn't enough to meet demand, nor the needs of rural businesses this year.

They are after a full six months, to make it worthwhile for businesses, to make the most of camping now in June, all the way up to October.

Dan Yates is managing director of PitchUp, and has been behind the campaign.

"This is all about making the most of the weather," he explained. "We've had the 28-day rule a long time, and for most businesses it wasn't viable to plumb in toilets, train staff and take a chance on the forecast. Fifty-six is a whole different ball game - but we need longer."

image copyrightGetty Images

Dan said many of the businesses looking to offer temporary pitches are wedding venues, or farmers who've lost subsidies. "Landowners can earn up to £50,000 a season in some cases," he said. "And no other type of accommodation in Britain can scale up like this to meet customer demand."

'Lean times'

Some may feel less than enthused at the prospect of swapping the Algarve for The Dales or Dorset, but Dan said bookings at his business PitchUp are up 200% compared to 2019 and just continues to grow: "It's unprecedented."

His campaign also highlights that families camping will spend, on average, £46 a day in nearby pubs, cafes, shops or attractions, giving a much-needed boost to rural economies. The National Farmers Union, Historic Houses and Countryside Alliance has backed the calls too.

But back at the Devonshire Arms Fiona knows it's not been popular with everyone. Some locals have voiced their resentment at extra traffic, visitors and mess.

"But the money I can make in the summer will help me through the lean times in the winter," she added.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is responsible for the regulation in England and Wales.

A spokesperson said: "We have doubled the number of days temporary campsites can operate as part of our support for businesses and local economies during the pandemic. These measures are in place until the end of the year and we are keeping them under review."

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, more relaxed camping rules are already in place.

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