Motorhome rules relaxed to make more sites 'possible' in Highlands
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Highland Council has become the first UK local authority to temporarily relax licensing regulations to enable landowners with suitable sites to provide continental style motorhome stopovers known as ‘Aire’ (from 'shieling' in Gaelic).
The authority says it is adapting to the significant increase of motorhome ownership in the UK and the demand for self-contained holidays by creating an opportunity to offer small, simple and low-cost short stopovers for motorhome visitors.
Chair of the tourism committee, Councillor Gordon Adam said: “The demand for traveling via motorhome has been intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result has created significant pressures for safe overnight parking in our rural communities.
"The Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to a temporary relaxation of planning controls allows The Highland Council to consider temporary use of appropriate locations for overnight stops in motorhomes without formal planning permission.
“To mitigate some of the problems experienced in the summer of 2020, temporary ‘Àirigh’ will offer a safe, off-road location for motorhomes to park for the night and help alleviate parking problems experienced in rural areas. Aires are used all over Europe and Àirigh could offer an opportunity to assist the economic recovery in Highland.
"We encourage any community groups or landowners that may have suitable land to submit a short enquiry form to the council’s planning team.”
Councillor Alan Henderson, chair of communities and place, said: “Dedicated motorhome parking areas are provided in many European countries and these bring welcome tourists into well-known and undiscovered areas alike.
"Aires make suitable night stops all year round. The Highland ‘Àirigh’ symbolise the freedom of motorhoming and reflects the way people are choosing to holiday.
"This approach is necessary in the Highlands to allow us to adapt to the increased popularity of this type of travel and to mitigate the problems experienced in many communities from overnight parking in unsuitable places and congestion caused in ‘beauty spots.”
As part of the council’s visitor management plan ambitions, the authority has created a landowner guide to create temporary motorhome stopovers. The guide is intended to give an introduction to what can be provided with minimum legislative constraints.
"However, it is important to note that no separate legal definition of an Àirigh or Aire currently exists," a spokesperson said, "so the guidance is based on existing legislation relating to planning and licensing of caravan and campsites and when or where any exemptions exist."
The council is proposing to take a constructive approach to support businesses, community groups and individual landowners who wish to offer their car parks or land to address some of the pressures anticipated during the 2021 season.
The change allows temporary use of appropriate locations for overnight stops in motorhomes without the need for formal planning permission, where it is considered safe and reasonable.
The authority has also been working with communities and a number of commercial campsites to ensure waste disposal options are available around the Highlands for those visiting in motorhomes. Work is also being undertaken in partnership with the Campervan and Motorhome Professional Association who promote the range of facilities through their website and other channels.
The temporary relaxation of planning control will be kept under continual review and will remain in place until December 31 or until the requirements for physical distancing have been removed.
The guidance gives a brief introduction as to what can be provided by communities and private landowners.
A council spokesperson said: "As not all proposals will necessarily be deemed appropriate, anyone interested should complete a short enquiry form and submit it to Planning.Technical@highland.gov.uk and a planning officer will contact you to discuss."