Configure your dome
white geodesic dome with stack in the forest

I am a salesman based in London thinking about re-locating to run a rural campsite. My family owns a farm in Cornwall and we would like to turn 8 acres into a luxury camping site with geodesic domes as accommodations. Will I need planning permission for that purpose?

We have been lately approached by many landowners and aspiring businesses in the UK about the practical side of setting up a luxury camping site. A number of questions related to planning permission for a geodesic dome. To answer this and similar enquiries, we decided to seek advice at the source and sent our enquiry to the UK authorities. Here’s what we have found out.

Contact Local Planning Authority

First, it is always best to contact your local planning authority. Each LPA has their own local plan and policies that are to be adhered to, alongside national guidelines. We were advised that what could be acceptable for one council may not be acceptable for another, somewhere else in the country. Optionally, you could also browse Planning Portal or GOV.uk website for national guidance on planning, however, each time it will be your individual planning authority that will have the final word on your specific situation. Speak to the council before you commence any work.

Geodesic Dome — Permitted Development?

Next, there is a possibility that your development comes under the category of ”Permitted Development” and hence does not need planning permission.

Many beginners who decide to open a luxury camping business choose to start with a 28-day trial period where they are allowed to use their land without planning permission for any purpose – “for not more than 28 days in total in any calendar year (…) and the provision on land of any movable structures for the purposes of the permitted use,” as we read in The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995).

Beginners often erect a few units to do a quick reality check on the glamping idea. They consider this period a monthly test of structures, their expectations and potential outcomes. Dome camping site is viewed by many as a relatively inexpensive project that can be launched fast and easy and its beauty lies in the details of the finished work: unique decor and accessories.

Restrictions? Note that planning permission may not be required for a 28-days period but it will still be required for any engineering work including drainage systems or electrical installations. Also, if you live in a listed building or within an area of outstanding natural beauty, a National Park or a conservation area, then you will need to apply for a planning consent prior to building a dome (or replacing your outbuilding).

Application for a Planning Permission

28 days is too little? Go and make full use of the right to apply. Contact your local council and discuss your specific situation. Nowadays, local authorities offer so-called Pre-Application Advice (at a fee which varies wildly from authority to authority, usually between £120–180) which will provide you with accurate and objective advice, and information about any relevant planning policies, timescales and procedures. In the case of the geodesic dome, the class will usually be: ‘minor operations’. Note that it is pos­sible to make a planning application on land you do not yet own.

In order to deal with requests and offer advice, the council requires certain information to form its decision. This includes: the exact location of the camping site, the size of any proposed development, distance from boundaries, etc. and this information is requested on the form along with the drawings to scale (plans must be annotated with accurate measurements).

Planning for a camping site made of geodesic domes may require a ‘change of use’ application depending on what the given land is already used for, and may require planning because of the size of the development.

Factors Under Assessment

Every site subject to an application for planning permission is assessed on its own merits, but in general terms, local authorities consider issues including (but not restricted to):

  • Car parking (proposals should contain car parking within the application site)
  • Impact on neighbouring properties (noise, disturbance, parking, etc.)
  • Land use of the area (residential, commercial, etc.)
  • Impact from the change of use in terms of increased numbers of people/cars visiting the site.

To get information regarding your individual planning application and the conditions you need to fulfil, contact your local council’s planning department. When submitting your application, don’t forget to provide information about the economic value of your proposed camping site for both yourself and your local economy. A decision on your application should be available in no longer than eight weeks.

Please note that any land located adjacent to residential properties could be unacceptable to be used as a camping site due to the potential impact of the above factors. Remember, there is always a right of appeal to the Secretary of State where a planning application is refused, and ultimately to the Courts. You need to bear in mind that, in most cases, a site licence will also be required.

Site Licence

A site licence has to be applied for separately and it can only be granted upon the previous grant of planning permission. As opposed to the planning permission, which attaches to the land, the site licence is held by the occupier of the land and is non-transferable.

Site licence will depend on the number and type of units, spacing between the units, washing and sanitary facilities, drainage, water and waste systems, gas storage and fire safety, access roads and footpaths, and electrical installations. 

Please note that this article is not a definitive legal interpretation of planning law. It is intended as a practical guide only. To obtain more information regarding your situation please contact your local planning authority.

Useful links

  • Planning Portal: This government planning website will help you work out whether your development can be carried out without permission under Permitted Development rights. However, it is unable to give you specific individual advice, e.g. does not contain information on whether your property is listed, located within a conservation area or subject to restrictive conditions attached to previous planning permissions.
  • The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, Schedule 2: Check if you can use your land as ”Permitted Development” and not apply for planning permission.
  • Rural Development Programme for England: Useful information on the rural development grants for farmers, landowners and business owners.

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