Motorcaravan Overnight Parking (Aires)

Guidance on overnight parking for motor caravans.


Argyll and Bute is an increasingly popular destination for motor caravans (MCs).

In addition to the services provided by established caravan and camping sites, many MCs need simple and low-cost opportunities for short stopovers.

This brings a new business opportunity for communities or private landowners – by providing overnight parking areas, with or without services, for use by self-contained MCs only. These spaces are often called ‘Aires’ and are common across Europe.

Why set up overnight parking

More than 16,000 new motorhomes were registered between July 2020 and June 2021 (National Caravan Council, 2021). Although there are more vehicles on the road, the services to accommodate safe overnight parking and the disposal of toilet and grey water waste have not developed at the same pace. More sites in sustainable and safe locations are needed and this is supported through research conducted by Motorhome and Campervan Users. (Research, 2019).

Overnight parking can be relatively low-cost to set up and they can be used all year round, or for shorter seasonal periods, depending on what would work best for your facility. The site can be unmanned and payment is taken either by an honesty box, or via a simple payment system, such as Ringo, Just Park, Paybyphone etc. Where site users pay via an app on a smartphone. Unlike formal campsites, there is no expectation by users that there is a need to book in advance so no booking system is needed unless your group/organisation would prefer this. As MCs are self-contained there is no requirement/expectation to provide onsite facilities such as toilets and showers and electric hook-ups. Although additional facilities could allow you to consider increased fees for their use.

Financial benefits

Potential income was calculated using data from the CAMpRA Motorcaravan Survey 2020.

example of financial benefits
5 van capacity scenario, parking only
Free stopover, 52 weeks a year
5 van capacity scenario, parking only
£5 stopover, 52 weeks a year
5 van capacity scenario, parking only.
Free stopover, 52 weeks a year
5 van capacity scenario, parking only.
£5 stopover, 52 weeks a year
5 vans, 7 nights x 30 wks = £5,250
2 vans, x 5 nights/wk x 22 wks = £1,100
Total Parking Revenue = £6,350
Spend in local pub and shop @ £47/van (2 persons) Spend in local pub and shop @ £47/van (2 persons)
5 vans x 7 nights x 30 weeks
= £49,350 high season
5 vans x 7 nights x 30 weeks
= £49,350 high season
2 vans x 5 nights x 22 weeks
= £ 10,340 low season
2 vans x 5 nights x 22 weeks
= £ 10,340 low season
Total to Local Businesses = £56,690 pa Total to Local Businesses = £56,690 pa
Total into local economy = £63,040 pa

Other benefits include

  • Testimonials indicate improved security for nearby properties, just by the presence of MCs;
  • Reduced incidents of vandalism, takeaway litter-bugging, and fly-tipping;
  • Savings of thousands of pounds on barriers and enforcement by not banning MCs;
  • Overnight (48h max) stops (Aires) for touring MC will attract European tourists;
  • Adding an overnight parking to your local campsite to encourage year-round tourism;
  • Providing overnight parking in designated areas assists in traffic management.

Is planning permission required?

Where private, overnight parking is to be set up then planning permission may be required for vehicle access, the installation of waste facilities etc. A caravan site licence is not necessary if the owner applies for a MCs Exemption Certificate (Please see Motorcaravan Exemption Certificates Below). The main criteria to be able to use the Exemption Certificate route is that no more than five MCs can be stationed on the site at any one time. If a larger site is planned then contact should be made with the relevant local planning authority.

Certain Clubs/Organisations can issue certificates which permit owners to have up to five MCs on their land without the need for a caravan site licence. These are often known as Certificated Location or Certificated Site. The issuing body will carry out a site inspection and contact planning to check if any local conditions may affect the issuing of the exemption certificate and also consider the impact of objections from neighbours.

An example of guidance for designing overnight parking and providing a Service Point for MC can be found on the CAMpRA Business Hub on their website

Motorcaravan exemption certificates

Applications for Motorcaravan exemption certificates can be submitted via:

For enquiries contact CAMpRA at

Planning a larger or permanent development

Larger scale developments require planning applications. The Council welcomes the opportunity to provide advice before you formally submit a planning application. Please contact the Planning Service through our Pre-Application Guidance. There are two types of caravan site licence; a Holiday/Tourer site licence for temporary, holiday type purposes and a Permanent Residential site licence if people live on your site all year round. More information on site licence for larger-scale developments is available on the Argyll and Bute Council website -  Caravan site licence

What would a space need to provide?

An Aire can be as simple as providing a safe overnight parking space. Ideally, there would be a basic water supply and waste disposal/bin (recycling) Grey waste disposal. The refilling of water tanks and disposal of rubbish could then also be offered to passing MCs who are not parking overnight. This type of service is in short supply and is another way of boosting the revenue from the site whilst at the same time protecting the environment. CAMpRA has found that some Aires generate more income from this service than from overnight parking.

The facilities a community group choose to provide will depend on the site itself and the ease of providing additional services e.g. electric hook-ups/water. The ground should be reasonably level. Due to the weight of MCs grass is not normally considered suitable unless reinforcement is used. Hard standing will allow year-round use.

If you plan on developing your site further it would be beneficial to consider the following:

Water Supply

Providing drinking water is a service that may be expected by many visitors and so is an element to consider even if it is not legally required for specific developments. If providing a private water supply there is a legal requirement to have it tested - Private Water Supplies. Further information on water supply requirements can be found on the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland website.


Electrical hookups may be expected by some visitors. However, they are not required.


If no toilet facilities are provided the site operator should only permit caravans which have self-contained toilet facilities. If toilets are provided, they must be connected to a suitable drainage system and a suitable means of hand washing must also be provided.

Waste and recycling

The opportunity to dispose of waste and/or recyclables will be expected by many visitors. Most crofts and farms have a commercial waste contract in place that could be used to offer this. Further information on Council commercial waste services can be found on our website - Commercial Waste - Information for Businesses.

Waste water disposal

In case you plan to utilise the existing public water and foul drainage network you should contact Scottish Water for advice on its suitability. For some small-scale sites, facilities for the disposal of wastewater may not be a legal requirement, for larger ones they are. The Campervan and Motorhome Waste Disposal Guidance provides comprehensive advice on this matter. Some commercial campsites making their facilities available to non-residents can be found at Campervan & Motorhome Professional Association (CAMPA) - Waste Disposal.

Any safety hazards must be thoroughly assessed before motorcaravans are allowed on site. More information on safety is available in this Information Sheet.


Whatever the services are provided all operators should be clear as to what is provided in any marketing materials to manage visitor expectations.

An example of a 5 step process of an application for Motorcaravan Overnight Parking

  1. Fill in the online MotorhomeFun application form: Motorhome Fun PDF exemption application form – CAMpRA UK Ltd
  2. A member of the CAMpRA application management team will contact you to confirm the area allocated for the overnight parking and explain the process.
  3. CAMpRA will arrange a site inspection.
  4. CAMpRA contact planning and inform them that MotorhomeFun intends to issue an exemption certificate to allow you to operate as a 5 MC site as a “permitted development”. This DOES NOT require planning approval or for you to contact planning. CAMpRA contacts planning as they wish to work with Planning Officers and check there are no objections before issuing e.g enforcement notice in place on the property.
  5. A certificate is issued and you open your overnight parking.

What help is available

Support is available throughout the process of establishing your Aire. Please contact us at and an Officer from Argyll and Bute Council will be in touch.

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