The popularity of glamping means more people are now looking at starting Glamping businesses, but it is important to start with the proper consents and permissions. One of the most important consents to obtain before investing, is planning consent. Andrew Troughton of Carver Knowles is a Property consultant who specialises in rural planning and also set up Cotswold Glamping in 2014. He is therefore well placed to consider both the planning and practical issues involved in obtaining consent. Below he looks at the key issues:
Do I need permission?
Even if the structures are all temporary, if the activity occurs for more than 28 days a year, it will need consent for a change of use from agricultural land or woodland. In additional any permanent structure or converted building will need consent.
What do I want to do?
To apply for planning you must have a relatively fixed plan in terms of the pitch location, type of tent and whether tents will be erected permanently or just for the summer season.
Sites seem to be evolving into either top end facilities with relatively few, high specification pitches aiming at the top end of the market or more basic no frill units which would typically be grouped more closely. Before you worry about planning it’s also worth looking the potential investment and return and this may dictate the number and type of pitches.
Generally in planning terms a small scale proposal will 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 be more acceptable in planning terms.
The site needs to be carefully designed to include:
- Well positioned pitches
- Central facilities (Possibly including showers and wash facilities, reception, honesty shop, bins and recycling)
- Organised parking area and car free areas.
- Open recreational areas for games
When designing the site its worth thinking about potential conflict between Glampers and livestock, farm machines and farm activities as well thinking about rights of way and site security.
Planning decisions are all based on planning policy so it is typically a good starting point to understand the Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) position on tourism uses. Most councils should 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 approach the application with.
Overarching Local Plans is the national planning guidance, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). There is a requirement that all Local Plan policies do not conflict with the NPPF and if they do then the NPPF will take precedence.
Generally tourism planning policies should be positive encouraging economic development but at the same time they require that it is sustainable and does not cause landscape, amenity or highway harm.
At an early stage you should also be aware of any land designations such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s), National Parks, Conversation areas or Green Belt. If the proposed site is in one of these areas it does not prohibit development, but the bar is raised in terms of making sure it does not damage the character and appearance of the areas.
The key planning issues
Landscape impact is considered in various ways but it boils down to the impact that the development has on the landscape in terms of its overall character and appearance. The impact is assessed from public vantage points such as roads and public rights of way.
There will always be some conflict here as the best Glamping site with fantastic views will be the most visible. However with careful planning a compromise should be possible that is both attractive to guests and less visible in the landscape. The landscape is often one of the selling points of the site so to damage it is counterproductive anyway.
If, when the pitches and facilities are being planned, there is some impact, then it’s worth considering some additional landscaping. It is essential that this is in keeping and mirrors the existing landscape, so for example, if the site is in a landscape characterised by hedges and hedgerow trees, then do more of this rather than providing an earth bund with a block of planting which will look artificial.
In cases where landscape is a significant issue, a Landscape Impact Assessment should be undertaken which in turn will inform the plan for additional landscaping.
A common misconception is that Glamping sites have similar traffic levels to normal campsites or will become normal camp sites over time. Well established camp sites may cater for 30 caravan and 60 tents for example, but a typical Glamping site could be 4 to 8 so about a tenth of the scale in terms of people and vehicles. Some neighbours may have concerns that the Glamping site will grow and the first application is the thin end of the wedge, but I would say this is not correct because the whole appeal of a Glamping site is to have a more exclusive stay with fewer people. We have found it is much easier to increase revenue by adding value to the stay and improving facilities than by adding additional pitches.
The highways issues that need to be considered are the increase is vehicle movements and how the traffic safely enters and leaves the public highway. In most cases the highway impact should not be significant, but where it is a Traffic Assessment Report will be needed.
Although no one has a right to a view in planning terms, they do have a right to 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 neighbours (as well as other Glampers).
Play the positives.
By its nature preparing a planning application means addressing the possible negative effects, but generally Glamping is a good news story involving minimal change to the landscape and involving small scale developments. The contribution it makes to local tourism through increasing numbers at visitor attractions and local shops and pubs etc. should always be highlighted.
The planning maze can seem daunting at the start, but a well-planned project that is thought through at all levels, should have a good chance of success. As well as planning consent, it’s important to think of the other business start-up points such as finance, marketing, labour required and by considering these at an early stage, the planning application will be more comprehensive and stand the best chance of success.