Recently I was discussing with a client how to get planning permission for a glamping business when you’re starting your campsite from scratch. In my experience, this can be the most time consuming and difficult part of starting your own glamping business, with some owners reporting it took years to conclude their application. This, of course, is dependent on local issues, and if all goes well and there are no complications it can be finalised within a matter of months. However, this alone demonstrates how complicated the permissions process can be and that there are no guarantees. However, there are principles you can follow and the actions you can take to increase your chances of achieving a positive outcome.
Often the issue is about making a start with the process. When you have dreamt of starting your business, made plans and moved mountains, it can feel as though everything is dependent on whether you can get the precious permissions you need to continue. This can create a barrier for some who, understandably, become too afraid to take the next steps.
In this case, my client had made huge progress with her business, including finalising a detailed business plan outlining her entire vision, her goals, targets, and an 8-year financial forecast with costing and expected income. It was a brilliant achievement and I couldn’t be happier. However, the next thing on the list was to face the uncomfortable truth that to go any further, the necessary permissions needed to be in place.
How To Get Planning Permission For A Glamping Business
Members of my Glamping Business Group (now with over 2,000 members) and students of my courses all agree that one of the top things they struggle to understand and overcome is how to get planning permission for their glamping business and for what they want to do. Many, don’t ‘get’ the consent process, are fearful of it and believe it could stop their business in its tracks. This fear alone is enough to stop their progress.
Many stories can be found about Planning Authorities that simply don’t understand glamping as a business or the benefits of luxury camping as an environmentally conscious way to use a piece of land or building, and diversify or boost a local economy. I myself have written letters in support of cases that have been stuck in the planning process, in the hope of persuading the authorities to give a positive outcome.
So I took the opportunity to chat with an expert to find out the best types of land for a proposed glamping business and any top tips he had for sourcing the right land with the best chance of success in achieving planning consent.
Seek Out A Planning Expert
I always recommend speaking to a planning expert. I have been involved in the glamping industry for over 7 years and have helped to manage my own boutique hospitality business, but as planning guidance and attitudes vary from place to place, can be subjective, are open to interpretation and are influenced by local issues, I always recommend finding someone with specific experience of obtaining glamping planning consents or similar, as they will understand the real ‘heart’ of this type of business and the issues faced when seeking permission.
It is also worth noting that when applying for glamping site permissions, while the details may vary from place to place, the principles will stay the same and it is possible to get a real grasp of planning consent issues to increase your chances of success… if you do your homework.
I take you through those key principles and other issues to consider in my online course, The Ultimate Glamping Business Guide, which offers you the inside knowledge you need when setting up this type of hospitality business, the income you can expect to achieve and the many other factors needed for success.
Planning Advice From An Expert: Roger Brisley
I am also in the fortunate position of working and networking with many planning experts in this industry. One such expert is Roger Brisley from Timber Intent, so I took the opportunity to ask him for his tips on how to get planning permission for a glamping business.
After 20 years at drawing boards in Architects and Engineers offices, Roger spent a year studying for an MSc at Hooke Park College, part of the Parnham Trust in Dorset. A work placement became a full-time job with a Tensile Fabric Structures manufacturer and in 1996 he set-up Timber Intent to design and build eco-friendly tents and canopies.
Whilst building tensiles he always kept his finger on the pulse of architecture and planning matters, and has been involved in the planning and design of some great structures from great big canopies at The Eden Project to small quirky sheds for Clients around the UK and internationally.
In his words he says…
It was an obvious step to include Glamping sites in my Planning portfolio and I have had success across different situations, tricky locations and with different accommodations, although I’m still trying to find the perfect Client who wants both the unique Timber Intent glamping unit and full planning services.
So let’s take a journey into the complex world of gaining planning consents for a luxury camping business in this conversation between a planning expert and myself.
Interview With Roger
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you started to specialize in obtaining permission for glamping sites?
Haha… 44 years (gah!) in architecture, engineering and construction then an MSc at Hooke Park College part of the Parnham Trust indirectly got me into tensiles and my own business Timber Intent, while I always kept my hand in at Architecture and Planning, and tents/glamping is an obvious mix.
My clients often ask me what the key factors are to look for when assessing if a piece of land and buildings have the potential for a glamping site before they buy.
In my experience, it is wise to avoid greenbelt, national parks AONB, Heritage sites etc. Of course, this is difficult and unrealistic, but if this applies to you I would recommend you also…
Check out your local Neighborhood Plan for local directives as it will include notes about extra holiday accommodations and if they are encouraged or discouraged for a particular area.
Farm and agricultural property is good as NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) allows for diversification on farms.
Good access is key, Highways can block an application dead although they will normally come out to view the area if asked nicely to give you advice.
In your experience, are there types of land that have a better success rate for achieving planning consent than others?
Farm, Agricultural and holiday park land.
Let’s go through a few scenarios so you can give us your thoughts and the questions you will ask around each one and what would be considered.
A house with additional land in the garden for Airbnb style setup of a few glamping units…
This depends on how much land is involved and if it constitutes a smallholding. It’s worth noting that each authority can view this differently, but if it can be seen as diversification and as an additional income to rural enterprise then that’s great. If it is inside or outside of the greenbelt is also a consideration.
House with slightly more land enough for a small campsite…
As before, try for a year or two with freedom camping, green camping, caravan club using the 28 day licence, etc. to prove that it works well with little impact on the local area, then apply for the official permission.
A house with forest and/or garden available…
Probably more difficult although this depends again on its location, if it’s in or out of the greenbelt, what it states in the Local Plan, economic considerations and if there are any environmental considerations.
The same as above but with a grade 2 listed building…
Interestingly, local authorities realise there is a financial impact to an owner if they have to maintain a listed building. This can be used to help an application as it can be argued that the permission will help to fund any future upkeep and building work. Other than that, the same as above applies, with more sensitivity to design and impact.
A piece of forest land with no accommodation…
This is very difficult to achieve.
A piece of farmland with no accommodation…
This is easier, but do not expect to gain permission for a permanent dwelling.
An old farm with a small amount of land…
Easier but it is important that this is an operational farm.
Change of use for a land and building business use to glamping…
An old garden centre or greenhouses with land etc. is a pretty good scenario for a change of use.
Tell me a bit more about permitted development…
If you mean with agricultural buildings, (it does not apply in Park, AONB, Listed building situations etc.) then the presumption is to be allowed to convert subject to various conditions, which are mostly not onerous ones, but as a first step have a good read through this document and the links beyond, which are all straightforward.
Tell me a bit more about a property with an agricultural tie…
The resident must be employed in agriculture or prove that the majority of their residential income is through agriculture. Removal of a tie is quite difficult, has to be demonstrated to have been on the open market with no takers for some time/years.
What are the advantages of farm diversification?
NPPF allows and encourages diversification
What are your 5 top tips for sourcing a piece of land with the best chance of success for achieving planning consent?
1/ Buy/rent a farm or smallholding or previously allowed campsite or holiday accommodation, which is distant from neighbours with very good access.
2/ Employ a consultant to get an expert view and ask them to visit the land before you buy.
3/ Talk to highways to consider any issues they might have
4/ If they will respond, talk to local planners
5/ Don’t complete on land before planning approved is achieved, although this likely to involve a financial uplift and/or loss of deposit. This is quite common in the world of Developers.
If you already have land then be flexible with an approach to units. For example, if there are a bunch of glampsites locally with pods then offer something different and develop a strong USP (unique selling point). Planners do not like gluts of things and will be aware of what is available locally.
Approach development softly i.e. a bit at a time. A good way to start is to try bell tents for the 28 days permission available to most businesses. Additionally, think about low impact units like easily removable tents, caravans on wheels and specially designed low impact builds. Also, try to avoid land with no flat bits to avoid digging out land or building decks. Also, consider completely hidden units and your businesses eco-credentials.
Visit Roger Brisley’s website and view his current projects.
Visit Inspired Courses to access The Ultimate Glamping Business Guide
Request to become a member of The Glamping Business Group
‘How to get planning permission for a glamping business’ was written By Sarah Riley from Inspired Camping in partnership with Roger Brisley from Timber Intent