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Permanent Sites: Planning application considerations for a Local Authority

For a permanent camping / glamping / caravanning site I’ll need to get planning permission – so, what will the local authority be looking at? 

A variety of things.  The following list is not meant to be exhaustive, but some of the key planning considerations will be: 

  1. National Planning Policy: the Government requires all Local Plan policies to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). If they do not, then the NPPF will take precedence. Local Plan policies are generally expected to be positive towards tourism - as it is seen as a beneficial contributor to economic development. At the same time they require that it is sustainable and does not cause landscape, highway, or amenity harm. Generally,  development in the open countryside does tend to be more restricted, especially in protected landscapes. 
  2. The Local Planning Authority’s (LPA’s) position on tourism uses: many LPAs in popular tourist areas have a Local Plan containing a policy supporting local tourism and some will have polices supporting rural development and farm diversification. These will give an idea of the sort of overall view the council are likely to take when considering individual applications. Consequently, any application for a new site should highlight the contribution to local tourism it is expected to make through increased numbers at local visitor attractions and footfall for local shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, etc. Depending on the specific policy criteria requirements set by an individual local planning authority, if an applicant is claiming a proposal is needed to support farm diversification, then they need to clearly demonstrate this, i.e. why it is needed at that location and how it will help sustain the farm business (as opposed to simply being an additional income source). If any Neighbourhood Plan covers the area, any relevant policies will also need to be considered, e.g. regarding nearby site allocations or designations – they may even have specific policies relating to camping development.
  3. Clear location and layout plans: these should clearly show proposed pitch locations, sizes and types of tents / glamping units or caravans and whether these will be sited permanently or just for stated holiday periods (e.g. throughout May to the end of September). Generally, a small-scale proposal is likely to stand more chance of success than a larger site as the impact of the new use is less.  Likewise, structures that come down in the autumn and are put back up in the spring will probably be more acceptable in planning terms. Site design needs to be carefully explained in submitted drawings and should probably include details of:- 
    • the position of individual pitches 
    • the position, size and elevations of any central facilities being provided (e.g. showers and washing facilities, WCs, site reception buildings, shops, cafés / restaurants, waste / refuse disposal and recycling arrangements, firefighting, or fuel storage facilities) 
    • site access from adjoining roads for cars and any service vehicles 
    • on-site roadways, servicing, and parking areas  
    • any rights of way crossing or adjoining the site 
    • any gas pipelines, electricity transmission lines or water mains crossing the site 
    • open recreational areas for games 
    • any proposals for avoiding potential conflict with adjoining residential property, or farming livestock, machinery, or activities 
    • any site security fencing, signs or external lighting proposed 
    • the location of any nearby public transport services 

    The main point here is that applicants need to be aware of the impacts of all elements of their proposal, not just proposed pods, lodges, (etc.) themselves, but also any necessary associated facilities such as service blocks, waste management measures or parking. Local planning authorities will assess the likely impact of greater numbers of cars and new access points as these can collectively and individually have an undesirable urbanising effect on a rural area, especially if poorly designed. Services and facilities proposed should be proportionate and necessary for the scale of the scheme - e.g. is a reception building really needed for site with only three pods? 

  4. Significant land designations: such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s), Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Dark Sky Areas, Conservation Areas, or Green Belt.  If a proposed site is in or adjoins one of these it does not prohibit development, but the bar is raised in terms of making sure it does not damage the character and appearance of these protected areas. There is a legal duty on public authorities to have regard to these, whether considering proposals for new sites or to extend existing ones.  
  5. Landscape impact: the impact that the development has on the landscape in terms of its overall character and appearance will be assessed. A proposed site might impact visually at public vantage points such as from roads and public rights of way or might impact on views towards a nearby listed building or area of special landscape value. When the pitches and facilities are being planned, some additional landscaping in keeping with the surrounding landscape might be proposed to ameliorate any such potential adverse impacts. A Landscape Impact Assessment should be undertaken to support a site choice – together with any additional landscaping proposed. 
  6. Biodiversity / Ecology: these are major issues affecting all the assessment of all planning proposals by local authorities. Pods (etc.) proposed in woodland settings - perhaps to reduce their  visual/landscape impacts – or other areas with importance for biodiversity due to the presence of particular local flora and fauna, can introduce new disturbance/human activity to a sensitive habitat. Planners will be looking at how a proposed site might affect a range of subjects here, e.g. priority habitats, ancient woodland, veteran trees, or particular species such as red squirrels. 
  7. Highway impact: highways issues that need to be considered are the increase is vehicle movements which a new proposed site might give rise to and how traffic safely enters and leaves the public highway.  A Traffic Assessment Report will be needed in support of most planning applications to clarify the potential impacts. 
  8. Amenity: Although no one has a right to a view from their property in planning terms, they do have a right to environmental amenity.  Where new uses potentially disturb this, amenity factors should be carefully considered.  Amenity could be lost through additional noise at unsocial hours or smoke from fires for example. In practice these conflicts are rare, but it is important to be able to show that there will be site rules in place to protect neighbouring uses, e.g. such as any nearby residential housing, and that any necessary planning conditions to protect environmental amenity will be acceptable to the applicant. It is important to detail the intended dates and times a site will be operating.

Obtaining planning permission does not override the requirements of any other legislation - for example the provision of sanitation or other facilities, flood prevention, drainage, etc..  Site owners or operators must ensure that their sites comply with all relevant requirements, not just planning policies and regulations.

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