Temporary campsite diversification injects £25 million into the rural economy

By Rob Blair, ARA specialist

According to new figures from Pitchup.com, temporary campsites established on farms across Britain have boosted the nation’s rural economy by £25 million during the last 12 months.

Although some parts of the UK have always enjoyed the additional income from camping, the latest data shows that areas such as Staffordshire, Lincolnshire, and Herefordshire, which usually lose out to more popular destinations like the West Country and Lake District, all shared in the windfall.

The boom in camping has been prompted by the rise in staycations in the last few years, driven by the restrictions of the pandemic.

Providers of outdoor accommodation saw £9.8 million generated through pitch fees and an extra £2.9 million being spent with campsite owners on firewood and farm produce.

However, much of the money spent in rural areas during staycation – approximately £12.9 million – went to other rural businesses, such as pubs, shops, and restaurants.

This provided a much-needed lifeline for these hard-hit industries, that faired the worst during much tougher COVID restrictions.

The sharp increase in temporary campsites was only made possible thanks to the Government’s decision to extend the right to open them from 28 days to 56 days a year, without applying for planning permission.

The temporary change to permitted development rights (PDR), was enacted to help the power a post-Covid rural recovery, but this extension is due to end this month.

Dan Yates, the founder of Pitchup.com, said the 56-day extension had a positive impact on the rural economy ‘just when it was needed’ but added that it was a ‘shame’ it wouldn’t be extended further into 2022 or beyond.

“Thanks to the 56-day ruling, lots of temporary campsites were set up in these areas and campers flooded in, generating a whole new income stream for local businesses in some of the UK’s less-visited rural locations,” said Dan Yates.

“So, as well as being a shot in the arm for the rural economy as a whole, it has also helped ensure some poorer rural communities have shared in the gains.

“While foreign travel will of course recover, we believe that the pandemic has prompted a permanent shift towards outdoor accommodation in the UK.”

Pitchup.com has said that bookings for 2022 are already 145 per cent up on the same time in 2019.

“If the 56-day extension were to remain in place on an ongoing basis, the impact on the rural economy would be very significant,” added Dan Yates.

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