Northumberland farming family fear impact of changes to pop-up camping rules

The Dixon family milk 100 purebred Holstein x Friesian cows at their peaceful family farm in 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 (PDRs).

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

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

This was extended for 28 days in June 2020 in a bid to help the rural economy recover from the Covid pandemic and provide additional capacity for the ongoing holiday boom.

But despite generating £25million for Britain’s 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 that campsites north of the border could continue to open for longer this summer, giving sites a few miles a major competitive advantage.

Heather Cruddis, sister of farmer John Dixon, described the Westminster government’s decision as a step backwards that would mean camping was no longer worth it for many farmers and landowners.

She said: “It’s so disappointing. The campsite was a huge success. We couldn’t believe how popular our site was. We had lots of people coming back multiple times and received great reviews We used a silage field, chosen for its fabulous views.

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

“The income has helped the farming business a lot. As this was very successful, we also set up two bell tents, one of which was fully furnished, and rented it out. »

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

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

Heather said: “Our site was used as a stopping point for people visiting Scotland both uphill and downhill. We will not be able to take advantage of these vacationers because we will only be open half the time.

“Given that the RDP has been extended to help the rural economy recover from Covid, it seems a big step backwards to go back to just 28 days, which means camping is no longer worth it for many farmers and landowners.”

The Dixon family listed their campsite on pitchup.com to get reservations.

Dan Yates, founder of pitchup.com, said: “Many hospitality businesses would not have survived the closures if they had not been able to capitalize on the staycation boom when they were able to open.

“With all of this positivity surrounding temporary campsites, going back to 28 days seems like a bad move for farmers and landowners, rural communities and the wider rural economy, as well as holidaymakers.”

About Keneth T. Graves

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