How to avoid planning delays for your glamping start-up

Posted on 4 December 2023

Launching a glamping business is an exciting venture and an attractive way for many farmers and landowners to create a valuable revenue stream. Often the only drawback is the hassle and delay of obtaining planning approval. Many aspiring sites find themselves waiting years before they can get up and running.

Fortunately, there are some relatively straightforward ways to avoid planning obstacles. An increasing number of landowners are joining an exempted organisation that has the authority to approve sites without the need for planning permission or a licence. Exempted organisations can use their permissions to certify members to run sites under their banner.  TruDomes work with a number of these organisations and we know that they welcome applications from glampsites.

The Woodland Champions Club

The Woodland Champions Club was formed in 2017 to help landowners create and manage woodland and open them up for members of the public to use. So far it has established around 100 sites across England, Wales and Scotland. The club has a commitment to plant trees with the help of the woodland trust and site members.  It supports passionate and friendly landowners who want to start their own glamping site. Member campsites are permitted to advertise anywhere, which isn’t always the case with exempted organisations.

Applying to join The Woodland Champions Club involves a DBS check and consultation before membership is granted. The process typically takes between 28 days and 3 months, so you could be ready to launch much sooner than the full planning process allows. The £300 annual membership fee gives members the certification to operate year-round sites of up to 10 pitches.  Certain site conditions disqualify membership, such as poor access onto the public highway and an existing site within 20 minutes’ drive.

The Greener Camping Club

The Greener Camping Club was established in 2015 with the aim of providing a more environmentally-friendly style of camping experience. The club currently has 120 member sites and typically certifies an average of 20 new campsites a year. They are selective about the sites they take on, but The Greener Camping Club sites enjoy higher pitch fees, higher occupancy rates and a higher percentage of returning visitors compared to other campsites.

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 site owner’s residence should also be on site. They preferred sites lined by trees or hedge banks over open sites that lack natural screening. However, sites that can benefit from tree planting or other natural screening will be considered. The Greener Camping Club requires a minimum of two touring pitches for each glamping unit.

Certified sites are included on the club’s website, with enquiries automatically sent directly to the site owner and no commission taken on bookings. The Greener Camping Club also provides start up guidance and ongoing support, with regular email updates on regulatory, health & safety and tourism matters.

To become a certified site under organisations like The Woodland Champions Club and The Greener Camping Club, you need to be a good fit with their eco-driven ethos. If you can demonstrate that ethos and have land that meets their criteria, you’ll have a ready-made customer base of members that camp on their certified sites. TruDomes’ glamping geodomes are renowned for their sustainable design and eco-friendly performance. A number of our customers have chosen our domes to demonstrate their green credentials and strengthen their applications to these two organisations.

The Freedom Camping Club

The Freedom Camping Club is another fully certified and exempted organisation with 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 as part of their offering.

To apply to be a certified site, you submit a form and one of their consultants will then contact you to discuss the process and what you will need to do before they can certify your site. Once they are happy that your site is safe and suitable, they issue an exemption certificate which means you’re ready to go.

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.

Avoid permanent building work

If you go down the route of joining an exempted organisation, be careful about the nature of the communal facilities (e.g. toilets) that you provide in support of the accommodation. Building, excavations and other works may require you to make a planning application which disqualifies you from certified membership.

To avoid this pitfall, you can use moveable composting toilets, portaloos and off-grid showers. Portable structures are usually considered chattels which do not need 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. If you have a suitable existing building (e.g. a barn) on your land, you may be able to obtain ‘change of use’ for your toilets and showers.

Opt for a ‘pop-up’ site

If you would rather operate with more independence, without the rules applied by exempted organisations, running your glamping business as a temporary or ‘pop-up’ site is another way to bypass a full planning application. In the UK, permitted development rights (PDR) allow a temporary recreational campsite to operate for up to 60 days per year without needing full planning permission. PDR is subject to a limited number of conditions, including a maximum of 50 pitches, provision of certain on-site facilities and giving prior notification to the Local Planning Authority on an annual basis.

To make a pop-up glampsite practical to run, you’ll need to choose accommodation that’s easy to assemble and dismantle, ideally requiring no infrastructure or wooden base for installation.  A compact geodome is one of the best options to meet those requirements – it just needs a base sheet and is easily erected and taken down. It’s also easy to store out of season. For more information on setting up a temporary campsite, please read our full article here.

Whether you choose to be a pop-up site or certified by an exempt organisation, these options involve some initial work in making sure you tick the right boxes to qualify. However, that time is minimal compared to the bureaucracy and delay of a full planning application.

Need more advice?

TruDomes’ customer support team is here to provide advice. We are experts in helping landowners to streamline the planning and licensing process. 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]

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