Northumberland farming family fears impact of changes to pop-up campsite rules

Changes to the rules around campsites could hurt tourism and the rural economy in Northumberland, a farming family has claimed.

Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 3:11 pm

The Dixon family milk 100 pedigree Holstein x Friesian cows at their peaceful family farm at Hedley on the Hill, overlooking the Tyne Valley.

But in an effort to diversify and secure the future of the family farm, last year, they set up a temporary campsite called Valley View Camping under extended Permitted Development Rules (PDR).

The rules enabled farmers and landowners to operate a campsite without applying for planning permission for up to 56 days per year.

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Views across the Tyne Valley from Valley View Company, Hedley on the Hill.

This was extended from 28 days in June 2020 in an effort to help the rural economy recover from the Covid pandemic and provide extra capacity for the ongoing boom in staycations.

But despite generating £25 million for the UK rural economy, the law in England reverted to 28 days on December 31, 2021.

And in a further blow for English farmers, the Scottish government announced earlier this year campsites north of the border could continue to open for longer this summer, handing sites a few miles away a major competitive advantage.

Heather Cruddis, sister of farmer John Dixon, described the move by the Westminster government as a backwards step that would mean camping was no longer worthwhile for many farmers and landowners.

She said: “It is so disappointing. The campsite was a great success. We couldn’t believe how popular our site was. We had many people returning multiple times and received some great reviews. We used a silage field, chosen for its fabulous views.

“The pop-up campsite didn’t affect our silage crop, as we still took a first and second cut from it. It was a great way to generate extra income at a time when the milk price had been drastically cut due to the pandemic without losing the use of the field.

“The income did significantly help the farm business. As it was so successful, we put up two bell tents as well, one fully furnished, and rented that out.”

But Heather added that with PDR now having reverted to 28 days, there was little incentive for farmers and landowners to offer camping, and that would hit the local economy.

She added she felt it was unfair English farmers were facing restrictions while those in Scotland could still open for longer.

Heather said: “Our site was being used as a stop-off point for people visiting Scotland both on the way up and coming back down. We won’t be able to benefit from those holidaymakers because we will only be open for half as long.

“Considering PDR was extended to help the rural economy recover from Covid, it seems a big backwards step to revert to just 28 days, which will mean camping is no longer worthwhile for lots of farmers and landowners.”

The Dixon family listed their campsite on pitchup.com to achieve bookings.

Dan Yates, founder of pitchup.com, said: “Many hospitality businesses wouldn’t have survived the lockdowns if they hadn’t been able to capitalise on the boom in staycations when they were able to open.

“With all this positivity surrounding temporary campsites, reverting to 28 days seems to be a damaging decision for individual farmers and landowners, rural communities and the wider rural economy, and for holidaymakers.”