Protected sites for mobile home occupiers

When a caravan site is a protected site, licence conditions, and the fit and proper person requirement for site owners.

This content applies to England

Protected sites

A protected site is one that has a site licence and planning permission which:[1]

  • is not granted for holiday use only, or

  • does not prohibit the stationing of mobile homes/caravans for human habitation at certain times of the year

A mobile home owner on a protected site will usually have the protection of the Mobile Homes Act 1983. The Act implies certain terms into the agreement and requires the site owner to apply to court if they want to end the agreement.

Mobile home owners and renters on protected sites also have the protection of the Caravan Sites Act. This prohibits harassment and illegal eviction.

Since 2011, all local authority sites for Gypsies and Travellers have been included in the definition of protected sites for the purposes of the Mobile Homes Act 1983.[2]

Site licenses

A site licence is usually required for land which is a ‘caravan site’. A site licence may be granted for both residential and seasonal/holiday use. In such a case, whether a mobile home is on a protected site depends on the terms of the site licence.

Where the licence restricts residential occupation to a part of the site, the mobile home must be stationed in that part to be on a protected site.[3]

Where the licence does not specify which parts of the site are to be used for residential occupation, any mobile home stationed on that site with an agreement for year-round residence is on a protected site (although the site owner could be in breach of their licence if the number of year-round residence agreements granted exceeds that allowed under the terms of the site licence[4].

Applications and licence conditions

A local authority can refuse to issue a licence.[5]

When making its decision about whether to award a new licence, or consent to the transfer of an existing licence, the local authority must have regard to any matters prescribed in regulations, including with respect to:[6]

  • a new/proposed licence holder:

    • their ability to comply with the conditions of the site licence

    • whether they have the finance in place to manage the site

    • are they, or any person nominated to manage the site, competent to do so

  • an existing licence holder (when a transfer is sought):

    • whether any action has been taken, or are proposed, in relation to the licence conditions

    • whether they owe the local authority any money in connection with the licence

The local authority can:[7]

  • charge an annual fee for the issue of a site licence

  • attach such conditions to the licence as it deems necessary or desirable

Offences

A site operator can be prosecuted for operating without a site licence or to failing to comply with a licence condition.[8]

As an alternative to prosecution a local authority can serve a compliance notice on the site operator ‘if it appears’ that they are not complying with a licence condition. The site operator can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) against the issuing of a notice or the conditions set out in it. The site operator can be prosecuted if they fail to take the steps specified in the compliance notice within the period provided.[9]

Displaying licence

The conditions of the site licence should be displayed on the site in a 'conspicuous place'.[10] If they are not, a resident of the site can obtain them from the local authority. The site licence conditions are not enforceable directly by the resident and the local authority's assistance will be required.

When a site licence is not required

In the following cases, a site licence is not required, and so there is no protected site:[11]

  • where a mobile home is situated within the curtilage of a dwelling house and use of it is incidental to the enjoyment of that dwelling house

  • travelling caravans stationed for up to two nights

  • use of undeveloped land of not less than five acres (or less if stated in regulations) where the land has not been used by more than three caravans and for no more than 28 days in the last 12 months

  • use of land as a caravan site by exempted organisations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Guides

  • use of land as a caravan site on agricultural land used by seasonal workers in agriculture and forestry

  • mobile homes stationed on building and engineering sites

  • use of land as a caravan site for travelling showmen

  • sites occupied by the licensing authority

Planning permission

The stationing of a caravan on land requires planning permission in most cases. An application for planning permission is made to the LPA. A fee is payable.[12]

For the legal definition of a caravan, see the page Definition of a mobile home.

Breach of planning control

The stationing of a caravan on land without planning permission in itself is not a breach of planning control. The question, in any particular situation, is whether the stationing of a caravan for residential use by Gypsies or Travellers would constitute a material change of use of the land.[13] For example, the stationing of a caravan on non-residential/agricultural land will constitute a material change of its use, as in most cases would the use of a touring caravan site as a residential site for Gypsies or Travellers.

There are exemptions from the requirement to apply for planning permission but only in limited circumstances. These include the stationing of a caravan within the curtilage of a dwelling house, or travelling with a single caravan and stationing it on land for no more than two nights, subject to an overall limit of 28 days per year in which caravans may be used on the land for human habitation.[14]

Local planning policies

The government's 'Planning policy for traveller sites' sets out that LPAs should make their own assessment of need when preparing plans and taking action on Gypsy and Traveller sites. Amongst the other matters to be considered are:[15]

  • protecting the green belt from 'inappropriate development'

  • increasing the number of traveller sites in appropriate locations with planning permission

  • addressing under provision and maintaining an appropriate level of supply

  • promoting more private traveller site provision

  • aiming to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments and to make enforcement more effective.

Fit and proper person requirement

From 1 October 2021 operating a protected site is prohibited unless the local authority is satisfied that the relevant person is a fit and proper person.[16]

The relevant person is either the:[17]

  • site owner

  • person appointed to manage the site by either the site owner or the local authority

This requirement applies to all protected sites, including:[18]

  • residential parks

  • mixed use parks, that operate both as holiday and residential sites

Non-commercial family-occupied sites are exempt. A non-commercial family-occupied site is a site which:[19]

  • is occupied as the principal home by the site owner, their household, or other members of the site owner’s family

  • does not operate on a commercial basis

The non-statutory guidance on the fit and proper person assessment provides more information about how local authorities determine whether a site is exempt.

Applications

Site owners have between 1 July 2021 until 1 October 2021 to apply to the local authority for the relevant person to be assessed. [20] In order to apply, the site owner must already hold or have applied for a site licence.[21]

Assessment

The local authority must assess whether the relevant person is a fit and proper person before granting the application to join the register.[22] The following matters are taken into account when assessing whether to place the relevant person on the register:[23]

  • offences involving fraud or other dishonesty, violence, arson or drugs or listed in Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (offences attracting notification requirements)

  • breaches of the law relating to housing, caravan sites, mobile homes, public health, planning or environmental health

  • breaches of the landlord and tenant law

  • breaches of the Equality Act 2010 and committing harassment in the course of operating a business

  • personal insolvency or disqualification from acting as a company director within the last 10 years

  • right to work in the UK

  • membership of any redress scheme for dealing with complaints in connection with the management of the site

The local authority may also take into account the conduct of any person associated or formerly associated with the relevant person.[24]

If the application is accepted, the relevant person is placed on the register of fit and proper persons for up to five years.[25]

If the relevant person fails the assessment, the local authority may appoint its own person to manage a protected site provided that: [26]

  • the site owner agrees, and

  • the authority is satisfied the appointee is a fit and proper person

The register

From 1 July 2021 local authorities must:[27]

  • establish a register of fit and proper persons

  • keep the register up to date

  • make the register available on-line and at the local authority’s offices during standard opening hours

The register must include:[28]

  • the name and business contact details

  • the name and address of the protected site to which the application relates

  • the status of the person

  • the registration start and end dates

  • any conditions attached to the registration together with dates when they apply and variations

If an application is refused, the register must state when it was rejected and in respect of which site. [29]

Offences

From 1 October 2021, it is an offence for a site owner to:[30]

  • permit the relevant protected site to be operated by someone who has not been approved by the local authority as a fit and proper person

  • provide false or misleading information

  • fail to provide the necessary information

  • fail to comply with conditions imposed by the local authority

If convicted, there is no financial limit on the fine the authority can impose.

Where the site is operated by someone who has not been approved as a fit and proper person, the court or the First-tier Tribunal has the power to revoke the site licence.[31]

Further guidance

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has published non-statutory guidance for local authorities on the fit and proper person test.

Last updated: 4 August 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.5 Mobile Homes Act 1983; s.1 Caravan Sites Act 1968.

  • [2]

    s.318 of Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; art 2 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8 and Transitional, Transitory and Savings Provisions) Order 2011 SI 2011/1002 .

  • [3]

    Berkeley Leisure Group Ltd v Hampton [2001] EWCA Civ 1474.

  • [4]

    John Romans Park Homes Ltd v Hancock and others [2018] UKUT 249 (LC).

  • [5]

    s.3 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as amended by s.2 Mobile Homes Act 2013.

  • [6]

    Mobile Homes (Site Licensing) (England) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/442.

  • [7]

    s.5 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 and s.5A Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as inserted by s.1(3) Mobile Homes Act 2013.

  • [8]

    ss.1 and 9 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

  • [9]

    ss.9A and 9B Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as inserted by s.4 Mobile Homes Act 2013; Shelfside (Holdings) Ltd v Vale of White Horse DC [2017] UKUT 259 (LC).

  • [10]

    s.5(3) Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

  • [11]

    paras 1-11a Sch.1 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

  • [12]

    Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014.

  • [13]

    Restormel BC v Secretary of State for the Environment [1982] JPL 785.

  • [14]

    Part 5, Sch.2, Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995; Sch. 1, Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

  • [15]

    para 4 Planning policy for traveller sites, DCLG, August 2015.

  • [16]

    regs 1(3)(a), 1(4) and 4 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [17]

    regs 2 and 4 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [18]

    para 3, Mobile homes: a guide for local authorities on the fit and proper person test, MHCLG, 4 June 2021.

  • [19]

    reg 3 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034; s.1(3) Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

  • [20]

    regs 1(2) and 6 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [21]

    reg 6(1) Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [22]

    regs 1(2) and 4 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034; s.1(3) Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

  • [23]

    reg 7 and Schedule 3 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034; s.1(3) Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

  • [24]

    reg 7(1)(b) Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [25]

    reg 5(4) Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [26]

    reg 4(1)(c) Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [27]

    regs 1(2)(a) and 5 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [28]

    reg 5(3) and paras 2 and 3 Sch 1 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [29]

    reg 5(3) and para 4 Sch 1 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [30]

    regs 1(3), 4, 11-12 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.

  • [31]

    reg 13 Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034.