The Difference Between Parking and Camping in the UK.

The former MotorhomeParking.Co.Uk web site always dealt with places for parking motorhomes, not places for camping in them. That means parking the vehicle, leaving it empty and returning just to drive it away. In the UK, any habitation of the vehicle is camping, not parking.
The laws (not rules) relating to off site camping are summarised in the article Off Site Camping in the UK. Any owner of land (a pub landlord for instance) must comply with the requirements of the 1960 Act mentioned in that article.

Unfortunately, some landlords (including some who are members of hosting schemes) are happy to break the law (or don't realise they are doing so) by operating caravan sites without a licence and some motorhomers are happy to take advantage of that. One has to wonder what effect that would have on business insurance cover should something go wrong. Equally, some owners of web sites/Facebook groups know very well that they are promoting activity which breaks the law but simply don't care despite the fact that they know that the long term consequences are potentially detrimental to motorhomers as a whole because of the adverse effect on people who have invested (or potentially might invest) their money in creating CLs/CSs or "aires".

UK Motorhomes is a responsibly managed web site which provides a listing of officially sanctioned 'non-campsite' overnight stopovers for campervans and motorhomes in the UK.

An increase in the numbers of basic overnight places (similar to "aires") would be most welcome and it's been pleasing to see that constructive lobbying has brought positive results from some local authorities in recent years. However, unless land owners (councils or private) see an economic benefit in setting them up then they won't do it. It is unlikely that somebody is going to spend money to lay out an area, with adequate spacing, and obtain a licence/exemption unless they see that they can recoup the investment and make a reasonable profit. If people think that, having made the investment, they will be undercut by some pub landlord or farm shop owner who sees a chance to make a quick buck and doesn't care about breaking the law then it is unlikely they will make the investment necessary.

Unfortunately, despite all the advice published on web sites like this one and on forums, some people never learn (or think the rules don't apply to them).
Given the actions of such people, it's no wonder motorhome owners have difficulty persuading councils that we park responsibly.
This Article from 2011 details problems caused by illegal camping in the Scarborough area.
This Story was published in May 2017 and was presented on a forum as being about a supposed unfair ban by a council on motorhomes in Chudleigh, Devon. Enquiry of the council revealed the facts - some motorhome owners were using the car park as a storage place and staying longer than the 48 hours allowed (parked for weeks/months at a time and not moving). It is that practice that was acted against, not residents and visitors using the car park properly.
The photo to the right shows an example of the selfish inconsideration of some motorhome
owners which we witnessed at Folkestone Harbour on 1st August 2017.
The motorhome was in a restricted bay with a generator out and fastened to it.
It is to be hoped that the driver enjoyed the ticket he received.

Even where (normally on-street) there are no restrictions on off site camping, the actions of some motorhome owners continue to cause problems. The reactions of local councils in the areas affected vary, as the following external articles show. In most cases the reaction is simply to bring in more restrictions. All the more reason for responsible motorhome owners to boycott unlicensed sites, refrain from ignoring restrictions, and campaign constructively for the provision of "aires" by providing real evidence of benefits to be obtained (not just unsubstantiated claims).
October 2017; Does motorhome parking need to be addressed?
December 2017; Overnight campervan parking ban made permanent.
February 2018; Town council upholds overnight car parking ban.
March 2018; Council considers action to halt overnight sleeping in Whitby car parks.
April 2018; It's official: Camper vans have been BANNED from parts of Exmouth seafront.
April 2018; Ban for motorhomes in Newcastle car parks.
June 2018; Motorhome toilets 'emptied on Morfa Bychan beach'.

How not to park and Some other points to bear in mind.

  • In any car park, check any signs to ensure that your vehicle is allowed to park there. In particular, do not use coach bays unless specifically told you can.
  • Where overnight parking is allowed in car parks there may still be a ban on sleeping/camping in the vehicle so check first.
  • If your motorhome overhangs into a second space (or more), check (before parking) whether overhanging the confines of a marked bay might result in a penalty charge. It stands to reason that if a motorhome is taking up two parking spaces (or more) then it necessarily exceeds the confines of a marked bay and trying to argue against a charge for doing so would be both foolish and futile.
  • In Pay & Display car parks it is always worth checking whether you need to buy more than one ticket if your MH overhangs into a second space (or more).
  • On 4th November 2015 the Supreme Court found in favour of Parking Eye in its action against Barry Beavis in regard to the legality of charges for overstaying in private car parks. Despite what some web sites may still claim, therefore, such charges are legally enforceable.
  • Employees of local authorities and other organisations sometimes have high workloads and/or may not have been fully trained in the application of parking rules. Almost without fail, the final decision on whether a fine/charge will be enforced will not be that of the employee "on the ground". In any dispute remain calm, make notes of events and take up the dispute with managers in a civilised manner at a later date.
  • Before attempting to enter any car park, especially in a larger motorhome, check that there is room to manoeuvre your vehicle safely and without danger to anyone.
  • It is an unfortunate fact of life that some rural car parks suffer from anti-social use, fly-tipping and vandalism and that, as a result, they are locked overnight. If you think this might apply to a car park you are intending to use it is worth contacting the owner to check in advance.
  • Last updated: 31 December 2019