Outdoor access and recreation – guidance

Social clubs: get an exemption to camp without a licence

Recreational organisations like caravan clubs or the Scouts can apply for an exemption to camp without a licence or planning permission.

You usually need a camping or caravan site licence and planning permission to use an area as a campsite. You can apply for an exemption if your organisation promotes leisure and recreation.

This allows you to camp for up to:

  • 60 days in a year
  • 42 days consecutively in a year

There are 2 main types of exemption certificate:

  • camping exemption certificates - for tents only
  • caravan exemption certificates - for caravans, campervans and motorhomes only

You’ll need both certificates if you want to allow tents and caravans to use the site at the same time.

Eligibility for an exemption

Your club is eligible for an exemption if:

  • it’s properly formed and has a constitution
  • the aims of your club include promoting leisure activities
  • the certificate will only be used by your club and its members
  • you can make sure members will abide by the rules of the certificate

Your club also needs to:

  • have a formal code of conduct for your members
  • show evidence of experience in running campsites
  • supervise and manage all sites that members use
  • nominate a member to keep the exemption certificate and be able to produce it when necessary

For the camping exemption, you’ll also need to show:

  • that the campsite will be well managed and kept clean
  • there’ll be no disturbance to neighbours

Your local council can remove your exemption, for example if they receive complaints.

How to apply

Complete the application form stating which type of exemption you want.

You can also use this form to renew an existing exemption.

Send the following documents with your application or request to renew:

  • a copy of the club’s constitution - including its purpose and the aims that promote leisure and recreation
  • a copy of the club’s code of conduct on headed paper - include a statement that all members follow it
  • details of club branches, and whether they share the same constitution and rules

Include these details if you’re applying for the first time:

  • details of when your organisation was formed (eg minutes from the first meeting)
  • your camping and caravanning history
  • relevant experience of organising caravan or camping events
  • names and contact details for at least 2 sites you have used previously

It can take up to 6 weeks to get your exemption certificate if this is your first application.

The certificate is free and it’s valid for 5 years.

You can’t transfer a certificate to any other organisation.

Where to send your form

If you need a certificate for more than 1 country (eg England and Wales), you only need to send your application and documents to 1 office.

Clubs based in England

Camping and caravanning exemptions team
First floor zone C
Natural England
Eastbrook
Shaftesbury Road
Cambridge
CB2 8DR

Telephone: 0300 0601081

Email: caravan.camping@naturalengland.org.uk

Clubs based in Scotland

The Scottish Government
Directorate of housing
Regeneration and welfare
Housing options and policy unit
Area 1H South
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ

Telephone: 0131 244 5566

Email: ged.millar@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Clubs based in Wales

The Welsh Government - decisions branch
Planning division
Welsh Assembly Government
Cathay's Park
Cardiff
CF10 3NQ

Telephone: 029 2082 3883

Email: nicholas.iles@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Caravan club exemptions

There are 3 types of exemption for caravan clubs. You’ll need to state which exemption you want in your application form.

Supervised and occupied sites exemption

This is known as a paragraph 4 exemption.

This exemption allows you (for up to 28 days) to:

  • use the site
  • let non-members bring and stay in their own caravan (if agreed with the landowner)

To be eligible for this type of exemption, you need to:

  • have someone to supervise the site
  • be able to sign a legal contract with the landowner or manager
  • consult local councils and planning authorities before using a site - and not use a site if the council objects

Approved sites exemption

This is known as a paragraph 5 exemption.

With this exemption, your organisation can select sites for its members to stay on, by issuing certificates to the landowner or occupier. These certificates are valid for up to 1 year.

Non-members are allowed to stay on the site if your club and the landowner agree to it.

You’ll need to:

  • set a maximum limit of 5 caravans at a time for each site
  • have a system for consulting neighbours and the local licensing authority (Natural England, or the Scottish or Welsh governments) before issuing a certificate
  • have a system for inspecting the sites and dealing with complaints from the public
  • send copies of the certificates you issue to Natural England, or the Scottish or Welsh governments (depending on where your club is based)

Club meetings or rallies exemption

This is known as a paragraph 6 exemption.

With this exemption, your club can use a site for club meetings, rallies or events. These meetings need to:

  • last no longer than 5 days
  • be supervised by a member of the club
  • be open to members only

Clubs based outside mainland England or Wales

Exemption certificates don’t apply in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or the Isles of Scilly.

In Scotland there’s no camping exemption, but you can apply for a caravan exemption.

Northern Ireland has a separate system for exemptions. Email: planning.service.hq@doeni.gov.uk

Current exemption holders

Find out which clubs have exemption certificates: