A guide to setting up glamping on your farm

Posted on 18 March 2024

The pandemic and the cost of living have driven a rise in staycations and a subsequent growth of camping and glamping has prompted many farmers to consider diversification with the launch of outdoor hospitality on their own land. Many have successfully incorporated glamping into their business, attracting families with the rural charm of a working farm and its animals.

It's a potentially lucrative source of revenue. In 2022, average annual takings for farm sites on booking site, Pitchup.com, topped £13,000. One working farm site in Cumbria took over £124,000 of bookings in 2021 and a former farm in Pembrokeshire earned more than £340,000.

The figures are eye-catching, but how hard is it to set up a glamping operation? It doesn't take a great deal to have the basic operational requirements: as a minimum, you'll need to have a suitable point of entry for camping vehicles, access to running water, a waste bin and a chemical disposal point where toilets can be emptied. The biggest hurdle for any aspiring glampsite is obtaining permission from the local authority. The planning process can be lengthy and painstaking, but thankfully shortcuts are available for farmers to get a site up and running much quicker than the traditional route.

 There are two ways to speed up the process: apply to become a temporary recreational site or join an exempted organisation. We'll explain these two options in turn.

  • Operating as a temporary recreational site

In the UK,  permitted development rights (PDR) allow farmers and landowners to  operate 'pop-up' glampsites for up to 60 days per year without needing to apply for extra planning permission.

What's required?

You can have a maximum of 50 pitches, which is well above the number of units at most UK glamping sites. This includes the provision of any moveable structure reasonably necessary for the purposes of the permitted use.

You must have on-site provision for toilet and waste disposal facilities.

You will need to give prior notification to the Local Planning Authority every year, including the dates intended for use and a site plan showing the location of toilet and waste disposal facilities.

Are certain types of location excluded?

It's not permitted in a limited range of locations, but they're unlikely to be situated on farmland. Excluded categories include the site of a scheduled monument, a safety hazard area, a military explosives storage area, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and site of a listed building.

What type of accommodation is suitable for a temporary site?

 'Pop-up' glamping needs to be easy to pop up – and pop down. You'll need structures that are easy to erect and dismantle, so shepherd's huts and yurts are impractical. A safari tent is one option, but you're likely to achieve a better yield with a geodome. They have a luxury feel with excellent comfort, superior durability, outstanding weather resistance and aesthetic appeal. Most importantly for temporary sites, they are quick and easy to assemble and disassemble.

TruDomes' compact 4.4m domes are very popular for pop-up glampsites. They offer a plenty of living space (12.92 square metres) but don't require infrastructure or a wooden base  – you simply lay down a base sheet and it's ready to erect.

  • Operating as part of an exempt organisation

If you'd rather operate for longer than 60 days a year, exempt organisations offer farmers and other landowners the opportunity to set up campsites year-round without needing a site licence or planning permission. The exempt organisation would typically inspect the site and make various checks before issuing a certificate which, depending on which exemptions they hold, could allow you to take bookings for high-revenue glamping units.

TruDomes work with a number of these organisations, and we know that they welcome applications from glamping sites. Many are committed to sustainable practices and responsible land management, so an ability to demonstrate the same approach to your land will help to open the door. TruDomes can help to strengthen your case as an environmentally-focused  site  as our domes  are designed and built to support carbon reduction with recyclable materials and energy-saving features.

Certain organisations – for example, Wanderlust Camping Club UK and The Greener Camping Club – prefer sites screened by trees or hedge banks, but if your site lacks those features you can plant trees or add other natural screening to improve the appeal of your application.

Are there any restrictions?

Building, excavations and other works may require a planning application which disqualifies a site from certified membership. With that in mind, you might want to use moveable composting toilets, portaloos and off-grid showers for your communal facilities.

Portable structures are usually considered chattels which are exempt from the need for planning approval. However, if structures are not easily movable, are attached to the ground or have fixed utility attachments, they may fall into the definition of a building. Trailer-mounted facilities are a potential solution providing they can be easily detached from water, waste and electricity services.

The table below (source: Pitchup.com) shows various exempted organisation which welcome geodome glamping.

Exempted organisation Membership fee to customers Time to approval Application fee Regions
Freedom Camping Club Free 4-6 months £180 site visit
£5 monthly fee OR online booking levy
£5 certificate fee
England, Wales
Greener Camping Club £12/year per family 3-6 months £300 set-up
Mileage fee to first inspection
£100 annual renewal
England, Wales
Woodland Champions Club Free 4 days – 3 months £500 set-up fee
£300 annual renewal
England, Wales
Wanderlust Camping Club UK £12.50/year per family
£6/year per family for tents/touring
4 weeks £700 set-up
£750 or £1,500 annual renewal (depending on size), or £300 for tents/ touring only
England
Wild Trails Free 1-12 weeks £500 set-up fee
£300 annual renewal
England, Wales, Scotland

The Freedom Camping Club

The Freedom Camping Club has the ability to license any piece of land deemed suitable for camping and caravanning to operate as a campsite. With an aim to bring diversity and flexibility to camping and caravanning, the club encourages sites to provide glamping units. While some exempted organisations prohibit open advertising and can only be booked by club members, The Freedom Camping Club is a non-exclusive club, giving glampsites access to a market of around 6 million campers. To apply to be certified, prospective sites are required to submit a form and discuss the requirements with one of the club's consultants.

The Greener Camping Club 

The Greener Camping Club was established in 2015 with the aim of providing an environmentally-friendly camping experience. Their ideal setting for a campsite is a sheltered area of at least one acre in a quiet rural setting, with safe vehicle access and a water supply. The Greener Camping Club requires a minimum of two touring pitches for each glamping unit and the site owner’s residence should also be on site. The club also provides start up guidance and ongoing support, with regular email updates on regulatory, health & safety and tourism matters.

The Woodland Champions Club

The Woodland Champions Club formed in 2017 to help landowners create and manage woodland and open them up for members of the public to use. The club has a commitment to plant trees with the help of the woodland trust and site members.  Member campsites have certification to operate year-round sites of up to 10 pitches, and are permitted to advertise anywhere, which isn't always the case with exempted organisations.

Wanderlust Camping Club UK

Wanderlust is authorised by Natural England to 'certificate' campsites. They  can offer advice on setting up your site, including planning  infrastructure (drainage, water, power, decking etc). They will advertise your sites and encourage members to visit you. There are no advertising restrictions, so you can take your own bookings or use any other platform. A percentage of all membership fees is donated annually to local wildlife and nature projects.

Wanderlust issues licences for people who are willing to go that little bit further in making their site comfortable, with high-quality, well-maintained  glamping  accommodation and facilities. The amount of accommodation that they grant a licence for will depend on the size of your site and the facilities provided. The person managing the site must live on or very close to the site.

Wanderlust usually consult neighbours within 150m of a proposed site and will deem the site unsuitable if they believe that neighbours may be adversely affected by its operation. It is also possible that they will not certify your site if you are within the 'curtilage' of a listed building or your land is subject to enforcement action or investigations.

Wild Trails

Wild Trails Camping Club was established in 2023 by four experienced campsite owners, hotel owners, landowners and passionate supporters of sustainable camping holidays and eco-friendly tourism. It's a small organisation with an aim to establish a network of premium quality eco-friendly campsites throughout Wales, Scotland and England.

A percentage of all membership fees are donated annually to wildlife and nature projects around the UK. Wild Trails provide start-up guidance on planning and infrastructure advice, and can also guide you on glamping site setups and business strategies. There are no advertising restrictions, and they work closely with social media marketing specialists who can offer their services at a discounted rate.  There are no hidden fees and they offer inclusion on their Club website,  with no commission taken on any bookings you secure.

How much revenue can I expect to generate from glamping?

Offering your pitches at the right price could be the difference between a lucrative income stream and a wasted investment.  It's hard to be too precise about your expected yield as every site is different. The amount you can reasonably charge depends on a range of factors, including the appeal of the location and the quality of the accommodation and facilities. It helps to research other sites in your area and compare their accommodation and amenities to your proposed offering. That will give you a decent indicator on price. Evaluate the demand for glamping in your region through online research and local tourism data. VAT needs careful consideration and will usually be payable on any campsite fees charged, so you'll need to account for this when pricing your pitches.

Adding bespoke features to your accommodation can significantly increase your yield. For example, TruDomes customers choose to specify extras in their domes which add a premium to their nightly fees. We can incorporate wood burners, compact kitchenettes and many other luxury features to elevate a site to the upper end of the market. It's not practical for a pop-up site, but it's worth considering if you're part of an exempted organisation. We can also incorporate features like solar panels to help you operate off-grid and bolster your green credentials when applying for an exempted organisation.

Geodomes are an excellent choice for a better yield. Even if you go for our standard dome and limit your facilities to the basic provision of toilets and waste disposal, you should be aiming for a minimum charge of around £70 per night per unit during peak periods.

If you operate as a temporary campsite with 50 pitches fully booked for all 60 days over the summer period,  that would generate at least £210,000 per year in revenue!

What insurance do I need for glamping on a farm?

Farm insurance covers farming only, although some policies now include cover for a very small site. You'll need to be fully covered for employer's liability and public liability insurance before welcoming guests. This can usually be provided by your land insurer. Public liability policies generally provide a minimum £10m cover. Diversification into camping is generally seen as a relatively low-level insurance risk.

The cost of cover is determined by a range of factors, including turnover,  a site appraisal and what activities, services and facilities are offered. For example, providing food, playgrounds, cooking equipment, barbecues and fire pits will be rated as a higher risk, increasing the cost of cover. Make sure you're clear with the insurer about on-site activities and keep them informed as the site develops.

All policies will require compliance with any relevant legislation, so you'll need to do a risk assessment and introduce health and safety policies, as well as emergency procedures communicated clearly with any staff involved in the operation of the site. A sensible set of terms and conditions should be issued to campers at the time of booking.

How will running a glamping site on my farm affect my tax?

The impact of having a glamping site on your farm on your tax obligations warrants careful consideration, both in the short and long term. You'll need to decide whether the glamping venture should operate independently or as part of your farming business.

Opting for a limited liability company or partnership structure might shield the farming assets, but it’s not universally suitable. Tax classification can vary: glamping may fall under property business or, alternatively, be regarded as letting holiday accommodations or a trade.

However, categorisation as a property business could jeopardise certain reliefs. Generally, if additional services like cleaning, linen, and meals are provided to glampers, the business is more likely to be considered trading.

Moreover, any diversion of land from agricultural use could disqualify it for Agricultural Property Relief for Inheritance Tax purposes. Nonetheless, Business Property Relief should still be applicable if the overall operation qualifies as a trading business.

How do I market my glamping site?

Setting up your own online presence is vital to market your glampsite – having a basic website is a minimum requirement; ideally you want one that can manage and process your bookings too. Designing and building a website is a modest investment that will pay dividends in making your glamping business more visible and attractive to potential customers.

You could also advertise on booking sites like pitchup.com or Airbnb, but you'll need to check whether this is permitted if you're joining an exempted organisation.

Establishing an active presence on social media is also a useful marketing tool which can help to build connections and relationships with customers. If you don't understand social media, outsource it to an agency or ask someone to show you how it works.

Setting up a Google Business Profile is a quick win. It's 100% free and allows business owners to reach customers via Google Search and Google Maps.  Businesses with well-optimised Google Business Profiles are much more likely to appear in map searches. Google provides guidance on how to set up a profile:

Guidance on setting up a Google Business Profile

It helps to collaborate with local partners: forge partnerships with local businesses, tourism boards, and travel influencers to amplify your reach and attract customers. It also helps to establish a strong brand identity, so it's worth engaging with a marketing company to create your logo and wider branding.

What else should I consider?

Whether you choose to operate as a temporary site or a site affiliated with an exempted organisation, we advise paying attention to various other measures:

  • Establish clear processes for reservations, check-ins, maintenance, and guest services to ensure smooth operation.
  • Notify Rural Payments Scheme if Basic Payment Scheme land is affected for over 28 days.
  • Organise a waste carrier and a provision of bins, including recycling bins for glass, paper and plastics.
  • Most campers prefer to pay by card, so your business will run more smoothly if you set up a payment terminal to take in-person card and contactless payments.
  • Print and put up a Countryside Code poster to encourage your guests to 'leave no trace'

Need more advice?

TruDomes' customer support team is here to provide advice. We are experts in helping landowners to generate revenue with pop-up glamping. For further information, please get in touch and we'd be happy to help!

You can call us on 024 7632 6585 or email [email protected]

 

Get your Dome Buying Guide here!

Simply fill out the form below to get a download link for our Dome Buyers Guide.

    © TruDomes 2024 All rights reserved.
    Terms of Use | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy