Non-member Use of CLs/CSs.
In March 2014 a thread on the Caravan Club's "Club Together" forum, discussing the potential provision of aires/nightstops in the UK, also covered the fact that the CC has a policy of restricting CL usage to members even though the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 does not make that a legal requirement.
A CC employee actually posted "in terms of Cls the member only aspect is not a self imposed thing, it is a legal requirement from 1960 Caravan Sites and Control of development act - schedule 1.".
In response I posted that "The First Schedule of the 1960 Act (Para 5(2)) says "For the purposes of this paragraph an exempted organisation may issue as respects any land a certificate stating that the land has been approved by the exempted organisation for use by its members for the purposes of recreation.". The CC interpret that as meaning that the land may only be used by its members. The C&CC do the same. However, the wording does not say that; "that the land has been approved by the exempted organisation for use by its members" does not say exclusive member use and thus does not preclude use by non-members. That is why the MCC CLs and Nightstops are available for use by non-members.".
At around the same time there was discussion on the Motorhome Fun forum regarding the fact that the MCC allowed non-members to use their CLs but that Natural England (who administer Para 5 exemptions on behalf of Defra) were insisting that other exempted organisations restrict use of their CLs to members only.
As a result I wrote to Natural England on 14th April 2014 requesting clarification of the NE policy and its legal basis. The reply was that "To allow such sites to accommodate all members of the public would be regarded as bypassing the normal need for planning permission. We are aware of one exempted organisation which has indicated that they would welcome non-members and have written to them accordingly reminding them that is not within the terms of the exempted scheme.".
I pointed out that "The problem appears to be that the wording for use by its members for the purposes of recreation can be interpreted differently. If it read "for use only by its members for the purposes of recreation" or "for use exclusively by its members for the purposes of recreation" then it would be clear. The absence of only/exclusively means that it can be read as not excluding non-members.".
At that stage Natural England were sticking to their position and, as a result, the MCC changed the wording regarding CL usage on its web site and in its written publications.
Further discussion on the Motorhome Fun highlighted Q17 on page 13 of NE's combined guidance notes:
"Membership is a matter for the organisations themselves, but the use of different exemption certificates dictates who can take part.
Paragraph 5 exempted organisations issue certificates stating that a site has been approved for the use of its members. However, non-members may also use the site, unless there is an agreement between the site owner and the organisation that restricts its use to members only".
As a result I wrote to NE again on 2nd May 2014 asking "Doesn't that agree with my interpretation and contradict the stance that to allow such sites to accommodate all members of the public would be regarded as bypassing the normal need for planning permission?". Natural England replied that they would take up the matter with the legal section in Defra.
On 25th May 2014, whilst researching another matter, I came across the Caravan Club's CL Operation Rules and noted the differentiation between "Club Rule" and "1960 Act" when specifying the derivation of its operational rules for CLs. I contacted NE again to point out that "Rule 1: Visitors to your CL must be members of the Caravan Club" is designated as a Club Rule, which appeared to indicate that the CC actually agreed with my point that the absence of the words only/exclusively means that the legislation does not exclude non-members from using certificated sites.
Due to a variety of reasons there was a delay in posing the question to Defra but NE replied on 5th August 2014 to say that it had been done so and that, following further thought, the NE concluded that "the Act does not prohibit non-members from staying at certificated sites but the decision to accept them or not lies entirely with the organisation that certified the site".
Two days later, NE forwarded the response from Defra, which was: Having looked through our files I see that the line in question (however non-members may also use the site
) was added to the guidance by Defra in 2003. As such I consider this to be our interpretation of the legislation (only the courts can give a definitive view) and so I agree with your conclusion that the legislation does not ban non-members in the case of para 5 exemptions, and it is a decision for the site owner and authorising organisation..
NE subsequently wrote to all Para 5 exempted organisations informing them of the ruling.
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Last updated: 20 August 2014