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Farmers – Britain needs you to help our nation heal

Farmers have long been the backbone of Britain, producing the food needed to keep people healthy and the country working. Now, farmers are again being called upon to do another national service – provide space where lockdown-weary holidaymakers can cast off the gloom of the pandemic and remember what it feels like to be free.

“Getting outdoors and into the countryside is one of the best antidotes to the Covid pandemic,” said Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup. com – Europe’s largest outdoor accommodation provider.

“Farmers and other land-based rural businesses are in a unique position to provide that opportunity, while at the same time generating significant extra revenue for themselves.”

The best way to do this, Mr Yates added, is by setting up a pop-up campsite.

Pop-up campsites don’t require planning permission and at their most basic, all that is needed is some land, a fresh water supply and clean toilets which can easily be hired in.

Even the smallest, most basic sites generate on average £12,500 per year in revenue, with other, larger sites turning over many times more.And there has never been a better time to set one up, Mr Yates said, as this year, they can operate for longer thanks to Pitchup.com’s successful ‘Carry on Camping’ campaign.

The campaign lobbied government for a change in regulations to enable campsites to operate without planning permission throughout the summer months and into autumn.

“Previously, farms have been able to run pop-up campsites for 56 days per year without planning permission and this has provided them with the opportunity to diversify quickly and cheaply, and create a new revenue stream,” Mr Yates commented.

“However, we felt very strongly that more was needed to power a post-Covid rural economic recovery, as well as enabling farms and rural businesses to recoup some of the money they lost due to the pandemic.

“So, we launched Carry on Camping to call on the government to allow pop-up campsites to legally operate for longer than the 56-day allowance, and we’re delighted to say, they agreed.”

The campaign, which was supported by the NFU, Countryside Alliance, and the FSB, was a great success.

Removing a barrier to economic recovery

On June 28th, after weeks of campaigning, the government issued a statement advising local authorities in England not to take enforcement action against temporary campsites opening this year to ensure “planning controls are not a barrier to local tourism and hospitality’s economic recovery”.

This effectively enables farmers and other rural businesses in England to operate a pop-up campsite potentially until the end of October 2021 where campsites “do not have an adverse impact on amenity, public health and safety or the environment”.

If tents are on the land for more than 42 consecutive days or over 60 non-consecutive days, a camping licence is still required. However, farmers may not reach these limits if opening is restricted to weekends and, thanks to the government statement, would no longer need to remove temporary structures such as toilets and showers during the week.

Administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland have adopted similar positions, recommending the day limits that apply to running campsites without a planning application are not enforced.

In Wales, the 56-day rule still applies, but that still gives Welsh farmers enough time to benefit from the height of this year’s holiday season.

Rural bodies involved in the campaign were delighted by the decision.

Sarah Lee, director – policy and campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, said: “This announcement is welcome news for many rural land- based businesses who have been badly hit over the last year.

“Relaxing enforcement of PDRs means there will be a larger number of camping and caravanning pitches available, providing businesses with greater flexibility and many more families with a welcome break in the countryside. It will give a much- needed boost to the rural economy, as businesses slowly start to return to normality.”

Andrea Graham, NFU head of land use and innovation, added: “The NFU welcomes the extension of permitted development rights for campsites for one summer only.

“While food production will always be at the core of farm businesses, Britain’s farmers provide so much more for the country through tourism and diversified farm businesses. These changes will mean that many more people will be able to go camping in the British countryside.

Protecting the countryside

“It’s always important to remember the countryside code, keep dogs on leads near livestock and pick up any mess, which can be a health hazard for farm animals.”

Mr Yates described the situation as a ‘win-win’ for the British countryside. He added that more farmers were now needed to set up campsites and help the nation recover from Covid-19.

“Farmers are so often the unsung heroes,” he said. “They quietly get on growing our food – not to mention those all-important ingredients for beer, wine and spirits – while at the same keeping the countryside beautiful for us all to enjoy.

“But after everything people have been through over the past 18 months or so, we would like to ask one more thing of them. Provide a place people can come, camp, relax, enjoy the wonderful British countryside, and escape the misery of the pandemic.

“By doing this, not only will they generate more income for themselves and help other rural businesses and communities flourish again, they’ll also be helping a nation heal.

“So come on farmers, your country needs you! Set up a temporary campsite and help the nation get back on its feet again.”

Any farmers or landowners interested in setting up a temporary campsite can find out more at https://www.pitchup.com/

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