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Meets, Temporary Holiday Sites and the dawn of the ‘pop-up’

Updated: Nov 4, 2023

As Camping and Caravanning members we should be aware of what the term ‘Meet’ and ‘Temporary Holiday Site’ represents, because these describe legal categories that are the bedrock of DA camping, and we should do all we can to protect these legal rights which are known collectively as “Exempted Camping”. For many however, the technicalities of the type of camping we love may not be fully understood, so this article explains the concept of ‘exempted camping’ (and why we are not running ‘pop-up campsites!).


What are exemption certificates and why do they matter?


The Camping and Caravanning Club is a recognised exempted organisation and so qualifies for an exemption certificate. The exempted camping department at HQ manages the exemption activities. As Club units within the C&CC, exemptions are granted to DA and sections for camp sites to be organised by members, for members, in accordance with a framework of rules and a constitution. These ‘exemptions’ mean that the camp site does not need to have a site licence nor planning permission, which otherwise would be required. The exemptions are granted under section 269 of the Public Health Act 1936 (in the case of tents) and Section 2 of and the First Schedule to the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (in the case of caravans, motorhomes and campervans). Exempted camp sites are permitted solely for the purposes of recreation.


In order to put on a meet or THS, a lot has to happen behind the scenes, which is a partnership between DA/Section committee and officers, and HQ Exempted department (also the national parks, and local authorities, where applicable). In the case of national parks, the process has to happen over a year in advance. Sites Secretaries do a sterling job and should be thanked for navigating the various bureaucratic processes so that we can enjoy a nice weekend.


For an exemption certificate to be issued, the organisation will normally be expected to meet the following criteria:

  • the organisation must be properly formed and have a constitution;

  • the objectives of the organisation must include the encouragement or promotion of recreational activities;

  • the organisation must apply for the certificate solely for its own benefit and that of its members;

  • the organisation must be able to effectively monitor compliance with the requirements and limitations of an Exemption Certificate.

In order to show that these criteria are met the organisation should:

  • have a formal code of conduct which its members must comply with;

  • ensure adequate arrangements are in place for the management and supervision

  • of all its own sites, and any other sites used by its members;

  • provide evidence of its experience of organising and running camp sites; and

  • ensure a named officer of the organisation is appointed to be responsible for holding the exemption certificate and for making sure a copy is available for display and inspection at every camping event.

There are three categories of exemption:

  • Paragraph 4 (covers what we know as THS)

  • Paragraph 5 (covers what we know as CS)

  • Paragraph 6 (Covers what we know as Meets)

Paragraph 4 Exemption

This category allows an exempted organisation can run a camp site for up to 28 consecutive days (known in the C&CC as a 'Temporary Holiday Site or THS'), with an exemption certificate. A member of the organisation must be appointed to supervise on-site activity (a steward). Organisations must have the legal status to enable them to enter into an

agreement with the landowner or manager, which gives them control over the site and organisations are expected to consult local planning authorities about sites before they use them.


Paragraph 5 exemption


This category of exemption allows a landowner to open a camp site with certain conditions including unit restrictions for up to 5 caravans and sometimes a few more tents. In the Camping and Caravanning Club these are Certificate Locations (CS), in the Caravan and Motorhome Club they are Certificated Locations (CL). In both cases, the club manages the network and grants the certificates to the landowners. A certificate is valid for up to 1 year and must be inspected regularly and the certificate renewed. The Club has a network of regional inspectors that visit the CS network.


Paragraph 6 exemption


Clubs with an exemption certificate can issue paragraph 6 exemption for camp sites of up to 5 days, which in the C&CC are known as 'Meets'. Once again, the organising DA or Section (the unit) must meet certain criteria, critically this includes a site steward. The meeting (or meet) must be supervised by a member of the organisation appointed for the purpose, in our case a steward. Non-members are not permitted to attend meets.

 

The Club units (DA/Section) do all the organising, the stewarding and the running of the meets and THS, including refuse disposal (required on THS). Insurances are put in-place via the Club and exempted camping is available only to member (only THS permits the concept of temporary membership). This is an excellent opportunity for landowners because they can access an income with few obligations, primarily preparing the field and ensure access to drinking water and chemical disposal point.


Exempted camping rules site must have a 'fallow' period between occupancy of about a week. A camp site cannot be continuously occupied. The next group can come on for up to up to another 5/28 days from either the same or a different exempted organisation.

 

Pop-up campsites (and why we should resist the term)


The concept of the ‘Pop-up’ came to prominence post-covid, for two primary reasons.


Firstly, the Government relaxed the planning rules on camp sites by allowing landowners to accept camping (for tents, campervans, and motorhomes) as an income opportunity, without the need for planning consent, nor exemption certificate. This is known as Permitted Development Rights (PDR) and was initially granted for 28 days per year and has been extended since July 2023, to 60 days per year. There are certain restrictions in that PDR/Pop-up camp sites are limited to 50 pitches, must provide toilet and waste disposal and fresh drinking water. These became commonly known as ‘pop-up camp sites.


Secondly, the term ‘pop-up’ became associated with DA camping because during the various phases of covid restriction, the term 'meet' may have suggested a gathering and might have fallen foul of pandemic restrictions, hence the term camp site and 'pop-up' came into the lexicon over 'meet'. Furthermore, a group of DA campers adopted the term widely on social media to promote DA camping. Presumably they felt the term ‘pop-up’ was more modern and descriptive for marketing purposes. The combination of these factors has left us with some interchangeable terms and perhaps some confusion.


As DA campers we have always and continue to operate under exemption and so we should beware of the ‘pop-up’ because it describes the PDR campsites and not exempted camping, which are the meets and temporary holiday sites that we have enjoyed for many years. Surely a clear differentiation is in our interest? Not least because the new generation of PDR ('pop-up') camp sites have given rise to websites which promote 'pop-up' camp sites and landowners opening a camp site can generate revenue from their land under the PDR, potentially circumventing organised clubs such as ours that have been promoting exempted camping and giving them income for many decades.


In the opinion of the author, the extension of this PDR scheme is unfortunate, on the basis that we already perform that function, we already offer high-quality camping opportunities and we already offer good revenues for landowners, sparing them the organisation. As not-for-profit we pass on almost all of our revenues to the landowner, retaining only a relatively small surplus to cover overheads and maintain the DA for members. We operate within a rigorous framework of standards to maintain safety, good behaviour and community relations, as guests of the community. As a temporary measure these deregulations were introduced to help landowners post-covid, which I am sure we all understand and agree, however the PDR has already been extended and if this becomes permanent, the dawn of the ‘pop-up’ could become an existential threat to DA camping, with 'non-membership' camping become more widely available.


So what’s wrong with deregulating, isn’t regulation just protectionism?


Exempted camping is policed by Natural England (note that Scotland and Wales have separate but similar bodies and legal frameworks) and you will note that the exemption is under section 269 of the Public Health Act 1936. Healthy recreation is critically important to public health and wellbeing, and this was at the heart the exemption concept. It might be argued that exempted camping is as valuable in our heritage as the famous “right to roam”, where both camping and rambling both offer huge physical and mental health benefits of the great outdoors. The principle is just as valid today and we all enjoy the benefits.


As mentioned earlier, exempted camping organisations have to meet strict criteria, most of which are to ensure safety and good behaviour in the countryside. Organised clubs with exemption certificates have a constitution, a set of stated rules for safety and good behaviour with volunteer stewards/marshals to look after the camp site and take reasonable steps to ensure the camp site is properly managed. This is the successful basis of operating under exempted camping regulations for decades.


It should also be noted that we camp with consent. Local authorities can apply for withdrawal of exemption certificates under paragraph 13 of the 1960 act, which is why we work so hard to maintain positive relationships with the local community and minimise our impact. We can only hope that if a PDR ‘pop-up’ site causes adverse community reaction or undermines the reputation of camping, that it does not impact upon our ability to host meets and THS under our long-held exemption.


Further reading:


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any individual nor organisation.

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