Overnight Camping in Car Parks &c.
Brief analysis of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

Use of land as a caravan site is subject to the provisions of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

S1(4) of the Act defines a “caravan site” as “land on which a caravan is stationed for the purposes of human habitation and land which is used in conjunction with land on which a caravan is so stationed”. Therefore, as soon as anyone brings a caravan (including a motorhome/motor caravan/camper van) onto a piece of land for the purpose of human habitation (rather than simply parking or storage) the land becomes a caravan site. It doesn't matter what the usual use of the land is (e.g. drive/garden, pub car park, farmyard, field). Neither does it matter what description (e.g. stopover, nightstop) is applied to the land; by virtue of S1(4) of the Act it is a caravan site as far as the law is concerned.

The Act prohibits use of land as a caravan site unless an appropriate licence is held or one of the conditions in the First Schedule to the Act is met. As far as touring caravans are concerned it is paragraphs 1 to 6 of the First Schedule which are important.

Paragraph 1 allows a householder to use his land as a caravan site provided that use “is incidental to the enjoyment as such of a dwellinghouse within the curtilage of which the land is situated”. So, if visiting (genuine) friends or relatives sleep in their motorhome rather than in the house it is perfectly legal. Incidental enjoyment does not, though, extend to a contractual/membership relationship with an organisation aimed at providing overnight stops for other members of that organisation.

Paragraph 2 allows use of land as a caravan site by someone travelling in a caravan as long as three conditions are met:
a) the stay is for no more than two nights
b) no more than one caravan being used for human habitation is on the land at the time
c) the land is not used for human habitation in caravans for more than 28 days in any 12 month period.
So, a pub landlord or farmer (for instance) can perfectly legally allow people in motorhomes to stay overnight occasionally but breaks the law if there is more than one motorhome in use at any one time and/or a stay exceeds 2 nights and/or such use is allowed for more than 28 days in any 12 month period.

Paragraph 3 is similar to Paragraph 2 but applies to land of 5 acres or more which has not been built on. The 28 day maximum is the same but the maximum number of caravans allowed at any one time is increased from one to three.

Exempted Organisations are organisations which are formally constituted include the encouragement and promotion of recreational activities among their objectives. Certificates are issued to exempted organisations by Natural England, the Scottish Executive, and the National Assembly for Wales, as appropriate. See Here for details.

Paragraphs 4 and 6 deal with the rights of exempted organisations to use land as a caravan site directly. These are the provisions which enable exempted organisations to run their own sites and to hold rallies &c.

Paragraph 5 allows exempted organisations to issue certificates to approved occupiers of land. Where a certificate is in place:
a) use is restricted to members of the exempted organisation concerned
b) no more than 5 caravans can be on site at any one time.
Obtaining a certificate from an exempted organisation eases compliance with the law for people like pub landlords and farmers.

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Last updated: 31 March 2013