Starting a Campsite - The Greener Camping Club

Starting a campsite

Everything you need to know about starting a Greener Camping Club certificated campsite

This is an abridged version of our Guide to Creating a Greener Campsite, which you can download here.

The Greener Camping Club was established in 2015 with the aim of providing a more environmentally responsible approach to camping. The idea came about when the four founders of the Club, themselves campsite owners, realised there was growing demand from campers who wanted to reflect their passion for helping the environment through the holiday choices they made.

In just a few years, the Club has grown from two campsites to over 120. We're often asked why we average only 20 new campsites a year. The reason is simple - we're selective about the sites we take on and some applicants are put off by the high standards we set. However, Greener Camping Club sites enjoy higher pitch fees, higher occupancy rates and a much higher percentage of returning visitors compared to other campsites.

Not only are Greener Camping Club campsites good for the environment, they are good for your business. The Greener Camping Club 'brand' is increasingly associated with the best in small, owner-managed, environmentally-friendly campsites. So, whether you are a landowner wishing to create a lucrative, sustainable, eco-friendly camping business, or an existing campsite that would like to re-certificate from another club, the Greener Camping Club may be the organisation for you.

What do we mean by 'environmentally responsible'?

For the Club's thousands of members this means camping, where the old adage 'to leave no trace' really applies. It means engaging with and being sensitive to the environment they are camping in. And it means recycling everything possible, buying local, avoiding waste and being immersed in the natural experiences of camping - like campfires, starry skies, new friends and fresh adventures.

For campsite owners - the custodians of the land, it means working with an organisation that understands and appreciates the effort that goes into making a nature-friendly holiday destination. It also means carrying on business in a fair and ethical way, with clear terms, conditions, site rules and great customer service.

What certification permits you to do

An exemption certificate awarded by us enables you to operate your campsite lawfully, without the need for planning permission.

The Club has been granted exemption licenses by the Welsh Government and Natural England. These enable the Club to ‘certificate’ campsites in Wales and England as long as they comply with the legislation and meet or exceed the Club’s environmental and quality standards.

The exempted camping legislation states that certificated campsites are permitted to operate throughout the year (though we discourage this and very few actually do). Certificated campsites can accommodate a maximum five caravans, campervans or motorhomes - and tents up to a number considered suitable for the size and facilities of the site.

What certification doesn’t permit you to do

Certification does not permit you to build permanent toilet and shower facilities. For this you will need planning permission, or 'change of use' for an existing building, such as a barn or other suitable outbuilding.

Neither does certification permit you to undertake any landscaping or engineering work. Again, for this you may need planning permission, so it is your responsibility to check with your local planning authority.

Yes, glamping accommodation is permitted

Glamping holidays are well established in the UK holiday market and many prospective campsite owners wish to take advantage of this. The Club is able to permit glamping accommodation - but in order to operate within the spirit of the exempted camping legislation, we require you to have a minimum of two touring pitches for each glamping unit.

Hard glamping units must be on a chassis with axles and be capable of being quickly uncoupled from any connected services and towed offsite at the end of the camping season. If you wish to include any glamping accommodation, it is your responsibility to check with your local planning authority that what you have in mind complies with the legislation.

Facilities that don’t require planning permission

In order to avoid the need for planning permission, many of the Club’s campsites use fork-lift moveable composting toilets and off-grid showers. Trailer-mounted facilities are another solution. These must be easily uncoupled from services such as water, waste and electricity so that they can be removed from site at the end of the season. If you have a suitable existing building, such as a barn or other agricultural building, you may be able to get 'change of use' for your toilers and showers. The Club can provide guidance on temporary/moveable toilet and shower facilities should you proceed with an application.

Chemical toilet disposal points

If you plan to accept caravans and motorhomes to your site, you will be required to provide a chemical toilet disposal point. This must be installed in accordance with local Environmental Health regulations. However, the Club does not permit the use of formaldehyde based chemicals. Only 'green' chemicals may be used.

Land suitable for use as a campsite?

The ideal setting for a campsite is a sheltered area of at least one acre, in a peaceful, rural setting, screened by trees or hedge banks, with safe vehicle access, a water supply - and the site owner's residence on site.

Highly visible, open sites that are lacking in natural screening - or sites that are close to residential properties and busy roads, are generally not acceptable. However, sites that will quickly improve from tree planting or other natural screening will be considered.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a national park, or an area of outstanding national beauty, this is not usually a barrier to certification. If you are within a SSSI you will need to demonstrate that your camping activities will have zero impact on the natural environment. If you are within an Article 4 Direction area, or if your house is not on, adjacent, or very close to the site, we will unfortunately not able to certificate you.

Benefits of becoming a Greener Camping Club campsite

  • The peace-of-mind from being able operate your campsite lawfully, without the need for planning permission.

  • Exposure to several thousand Club members, who seek quiet, eco-friendly campsites - and are prepared to pay a little bit more for this exclusivity.

  • Inclusion on the Club’s website, with camping enquiries automatically sent directly to you. No commission is taken on any bookings you secure.

  • Start up guidance on such matters as portable/eco facilities, siting of pitches and tree planting schemes.

  • Ongoing support, with regular email updates on regulatory, health & safety and tourism matters.

  • Site Owners Forum, where you can post questions, get answers to common problems, share ideas and network with fellow site owners.

  • Membership of an exclusive network of top quality, eco-friendly campsites that are not just great places to stay - but are passionate about improving the natural environment and making eco-tourism a reality.

What next?

If you would like to submit an application to become a certificate campsite, please click here to open the online application form. We aim to get back to you within seven days. There’s no obligation at any stage, so if you decide at any point that this is no longer the route for you, just let us know and we’ll close your application.

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