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Camping pods: caravans or buildings?

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Posted by John Gregory on 08 April 2020

John Gregory - Planning Lawyer
John Gregory Head of Planning

A recent appeal decision considered whether camping pods are caravans for planning purposes.

An enforcement notice had been issued by the local planning authority, alleging breach of planning control for the erection and siting of 4 camping pods. The local planning authority considered the pods to be buildings requiring planning permission.

Each pod measures approximately 3m x 4m x 2.5m and weighs 1.5 tonnes. They sit on concrete bases and, when delivered pre-constructed, are crane-lifted into place.

The camping pods are connected to an electricity supply allowing the use of wall mounted heaters and basic kitchen appliances. Each pod contains an inflatable bed but has no insulation, double glazing, bathroom or designated kitchen area. Moreover, the pods are not connected to a water supply.


The inspector found that the camping pods are buildings and not caravans. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed and the enforcement notice upheld. He applied the usual three limbed (Skerrits) test for whether a structure is a building, i.e. its size, degree of permanence and degree of physical attachment to the land.

The pods were deemed to be physically attached to the ground, as they can only be moved by machines due to their weight. Furthermore, the pods have been in situ from May 2017, giving them a degree of permanency.

The Inspector decided that the pods were not designed or adapted for human habitation and therefore could not be caravans. A connection to an electrical supply was not enough on its own to show an adaption for human habitation, as this is a common feature of garden sheds. Moreover, the provision of beds and kitchen appliances were not adaptions to the structure itself.

In view of this, the camping pods were not considered caravans under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, which defines them as “any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another (whether by being towed, or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer) and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted”.


Determining whether a structure such as a camping pod constitutes a caravan or a building is not always straightforward. It is fact dependant and to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Unusual or unique structures may be challenging to define, though it is important to do so because building on land will constitute a development requiring planning permission.

Caravans are generally capable of being moved, must satisfy specific dimensions and be designed or adapted for human habitation. On the other hand, a building has a higher degree of permanence and physical attachment to the ground. The size of the structure is also a key consideration.

This decision highlights that careful consideration must be given to whether a structure is a caravan or building in order to avoid falling foul of planning control. Further, if an application for a camping/caravan site is deemed to include operational development as well as a change of use, there could be significant implications in terms of the applicable application fee.

PINS: APP/B9506/C/18/3210831 and 3213790

About the author

John Gregory

Head of Planning

John is a specialist planning lawyer with extensive experience of advising on all aspects of the planning and highways law.

John Gregory

John is a specialist planning lawyer with extensive experience of advising on all aspects of the planning and highways law.

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