CL Owners Group
The ONLY organisation run by CL Owners for CL Owners
Who we are: Owners of Certificated Locations Certificated by the Caravan And Motorhome Club. Although we are all CAMC owners, the Club itself plays no part in the group. We welcome new members to the group.
History: Back in 2014, a few CL owners started chatting to each other about practical issues they faced, such as whether to charge Members of the Club a deposit for their pitch booking. As we all lead busy lives, and many of us have a 'day job' as well as running the CL, we thought that some kind of 'forum' would be the most convenient way to share our ideas. All CL owners are welcome to join us and take advantage of our frequent Zoom meetings and updates. Those who also use Facebook can join our private group which allows us to quickly discuss issues and offer support to each other. We also publish an occasional newsletter for Owners who aren't on Facebook.
New to owning a CL? Or thinking of setting up a CL?
A quirk of the planning system, the Caravan Act of 1960 allows Certificating Organisations, such as the Caravan & Motorhome Club to grant a 1 year licence or certificate to sites that meet the criteria laid down in the act. These criteria vary, allowing some clubs to allow tents, but the CAMC can only certificate sites allowing touring caravans or motor caravans (Motorhomes) with a maximum of 5 units overnight. If a site wishes to have more than 5 units, it will need to gain planning permission from the Local Authority.
As the certification is an Act of Parliament and covers a whole host of other matters relating to caravans, caravan sites, travelling showmen etc. it is most unlikely that it will ever be amended to allow more than 5 vans.
The certificate to operate your CL is issued annually, provided you have complied with the terms set out by the club, including PL Insurance and EHU testing and water quality if on a private supply. The Caravan & Motorhome Club is an acknowledged Certificating body by Natural England that can issue a licence under the Caravan Sites & Control of Development Act 1960.
Before commencing work on expensive additional facilities be aware that there is no guarantee that your certificate will be renewed. If you want to ensure the longevity of your site for touring caravans and motorhomes, you may wish to consider applying to your local authority for full planning permission. Also be aware of the curtilage (area) of your CL.
The Caravan & Motorhome Club may look like a large business with a turnover approaching £120M generated from running sites, insurance, overseas travel and membership subscriptions, but whilst it has a large corporate staff, its direction is guided by the Executive Committee and other voluntary committees responsible for various aspects such as Sites and Finance. The Executive Committee members are drawn from (not elected by) the Club Council. Members of these committees are unpaid and are not connected to the caravan industry.
The Club is bound by its Bye-Laws and Articles of Association.
If you are starting out, there are a number of organisations that can offer a certificate to landowners to set up a small site. We'd suggest that the Caravan & Motorhome Club (CAMC) is your best choice. Do not confuse it with the Camping & Caravan Club which will charge you 4 times more run your 5-van site. The CAMC has the strongest balance-sheet, the most resources and the largest membership of potential customers. Whilst the CL network competes to a degree with the club-run sites network of large sites, a high proportion of the CAMC members prefer the smaller CL sites. However, the key reason we feel you should set up a CAMC CL is that no other organisation has an Owners Group dedicated to supporting you with advice and support.
The success of a CL, and therefore its ability to provide a Return on Investment (ROI) is influenced by a number of factors, but high on the list is location. CLs in a tourism 'hot spot', should do well, but equally if you can offer lovely views, peace and quiet, a walk from the site or you are close enough to a ferry port, motorway junction or large town, you will attract visitors. Being within walking-distance to a good pub, or a bus stop are also positive factors. But if you are truly in 'the middle of nowhere', test the waters before investing thousands of pounds of your pension. Your out-of-the-way location (whilst you may feel is lovely) may not have the 'draw' to provide a return on your hard-earned cash.
Three factors determine your ROI.
1) Investment costs
2) Price per pitch
3) Occupancy per year. How many years will it take to pay back your investment (or income foregone)?
Most people would wish to pay an investment of this type back in 3-5 years. With only 5 pitches and pitch prices averaging at £14/night, what occupancy can you achieve during the tourism season; Easter through October?
Risks: Bear in mind that if you do not have full planning permission and are relying on the Club Certification, you only have a 1 year licence that can be suspended or revoked by the club. Also, if your circumstance change (Death / Divorce etc.) and you have not repaid the investment, who will shoulder it?
Pricing is a hotly debated topic but most CL owners would argue that it would be difficult to run a site - even a basic one without electric hook up and make any return at less than £10/night. Some CLs are now charging over £30/night.
Your occupancy can be greatly improved with good marketing. The CL Owners group can assist in 2 ways; Advice on how to more effectively market your CL and through advertising your CL's availability on social media such as the CL Booking Group on Facebook. See later sections.
We're here to help new & prospective owners
New to the idea of setting up a CL? Want to do some research? Speak to current owners? Understand the costs? Contact us and we'll help to answer your questions. Complete this Advice Request and we'll get back to you.
I'm an existing CL Owner
If you are already certificated , and your site appears on the Caravan & Motorhome Club Website, you can join the Owners Group free of charge.
The CL Owners Group - Who we are and what we do
Direct support. This private group on Facebook which started in 2013 is just for current CL owners. This is where we share best practice, discuss topics of interest and share ideas. Ask a question & get almost immediate advice and suggestions from fellow CL owners.
The group is free to join, but as it is private you must ask to be a friend of one of the administrators to be invited. More information is available when you join the Owners Group.
In December 2020 there were 524 members within the group. Join us to;
Take part in our regular Zoom advice meetings
Order a Booking Diary or Wall Planner
Receive detailed advice & support on running & marketing your CL
Note: You do not need to be a Facebook user to join our group.
Discounts from suppliers. Working with a leading Buying Group, the CL Owners Group gives you access to huge savings at leading suppliers. 10% at B&Q, 5% at Screwfix and Booker. Our Buying Group Partners also have access to many other suppliers relevant to the sector.
If electricity or other utility costs are a concern, our partners can offer to check your current deals and find you a better offer whether you have a domestic or business electricity account.
Sign up today to the Owners Group and ask about registering for the discounts.
Meeting other CL Owners. Members of the CL Owners group started using Zoom to meet due to Covid-19. In the first lockdown we met a number of times to share best practice and hear from the club. Since then we have used Zoom to meet on a fortnightly basis to meet and discuss a whole range of topics from insurance options to marketing etc. The zoom chats are very well attended (up to 80 participants) and are recorded for those who cannot attend. Invitations to the zoom chats and recordings are open to members of the CL Owners group. Find out more about joining the CL Owners Group so that you can listen to the recordings or attend the live events here.
Communicate with the Club. The purpose of the CL Advisory Group is to allow for the exchange of information and views between the Club and CL owners. The output from the group is utilised by the Club’s management where appropriate to inform the Sites & Accommodation Users Committee, and this will be the formal process of CLs to raise matters that they would like the Club to review. The group comprises 11 elected CL owners selected on a regional basis and three representatives from Club HQ.
The Advisory Group was originally promised by the Club in 2018, but was not constituted until late 2020 with the first meeting held in February 2021. It now meets quarterly. The advisory group is chaired by Anthony Davies, Director of Sites and Accommodation.
Marketing your CL - how the owners group helps you
Have you invested time, money and effort to set up your CL? Would you like to improve your occupancy and ensure you get a Return on Investment? Marketing is the key. Whilst the Club will provide a basic listing in the bi-annual hard copy directory and a listing on their website, that is rarely enough these days. At the very least you need a great description and good photos of your site on the Club website. To increase bookings you really need to proactively market your site on social media (eg Facebook) and perhaps have a website and/or booking system so that members can book with you easily.
Established sites can achieve 90%+ occupancy in the season, but they work hard at their marketing to ensure this. CL Booking is just one of the many channels to market that you should exploit as a CL owner.
This group on Facebook connects 15,000 CAMC members with over 400 CLs. Every month in the season an Availability Map is published showing which CLs have space for that month and forthcoming months or bank holidays.
The group is open to all CAMC members (they need to answer 4 questions) and CLs who are members of the owners group.
The group has been very well received and resulted in hundreds of bookings for CL owners.
If you are a CL owner, please join today. Ensure you mention your CL name when you complete the 4 questions.
Topics of interest to all CL owners
Probably the most discussed issue for CL owners is the cost of providing Electric Hook Up (EHU) to members. Modern caravans now use electricity (rather than gas) for heating during colder spells. This fact, coupled with the assumption by some members that their pitch fee includes as much EHU as they like, can lead to spiralling costs for unwary CL owners.
An increasing number of CL owners are therefore either a) increasing their pitch fees for winter months by as much as £5/night or b) installing meters on each pitch so that they can ask for a reim bursement for electricity used. This has to be at cost (as per OFGEM regulations) as you are not al lowed to resell Electricity at a profit. As the popularity of electric cars increases (and the usage of awning heaters, washing machines and electric grills to name a few), CL owners are advised to keep a close eye on EHU usage and respond accordingly. EHU bollards must be tested by an electrician regularly and the results provided to the club.
Public Liability Insurance (PLI) is a requirement of your annual certification. It covers you in case a member incurs an injury whilst on your property.
There are two specialist brokers who can offer PLI to CLs; Devitts & McClarrons. They both offer similar packages at under £100/year. If you operate a wider business or farm, your existing insurer (eg. the NFU) will probably include PLI in their policy, but ensure it covers the 5-van CL.
Top Tip: If you plan to invest in a Loo/Shower, be aware that a portable unit can be offset against tax as they can be designated as 'Plant & Machinery' rather than a Fixed Asset. They can also be sold if you change your plans.
Whether a CL offers visitors a Toilet or Shower is down to a number of factors.
Pros: Members in small campervans may not have on-board facilities, so you will be attractive to them. Around 1/3 of CAMC members choose not to use their on-board facilities for one reason or another. You may be able to charge a little more per night. It's a point of differentiation between your site and local competitors.
Cons: The capital costs of a new facility can be high. Will you receive enough return on investment? Would the capital outlay be better spent on other improvements such as serviced or hardstanding pitches. Who is going to clean the Toilet & Shower every day & keep it stocked with loo-paper, soaps, light bulbs etc. There's (a lot) more to go wrong. Cost of consumables, water & electric / gas.
If you don't have decent photos of your CL, then expect fewer bookings. The most common complaint from members is that some CLs don't provide a photo. Most members will ignore a listing without a photo of the CL. If you are a member of the CAMC you can display up to 8 photos and the club will also add captions if you wish.
Tips: Try and include photos showing the layout of the CL (an aerial view is ideal), any views, your facilities (if you have a WC/Shower) and some of the local area. Clear photos taken on a sunny day will always help to sell your CL. If you don't have photography skills, pay someone who has, it'll be the best investment you make in your CL, if you want bookings!
Many CLs already operate a B&B, glamping or related business alongside their CL. Some CLs sit alongside small commercial caravan sites, or offer caravan storage. Others offer dog-sitting or horse riding, a farm shop or sell local produce. See The Business Barn for lots of ideas on diversifying.
There are many options open to CL owners, but remember that you may need planning permission to operate another business from your premises and it may also mean you have to pay business rates etc.
CLs which are often located in the open countryside or are on farms are as 'close to nature' as you could wish for. Many CLs already embrace the environment, provide recycling facilities and promote local farm shops etc. Members can assist CL site by only using 'Green Fluid' in their cassettes.
We are delighted that the Caravan & Motorhome club have a strong 'sustainability agenda'. For example, all CAMC club sites will now only sell 'green' toilet chemicals and the club has stopped sending paper booking diaries to all CLs , much to their annoyance.
CLs wishing to be accredited by 'Green Tourism' can benefit from a significant reduction in membership and joining fees by joining the Owners Group. Take their 'GreenCheck Quiz' here.
Background Information about CLs & CL usage
Many CLs are located on working farms. They can be an extremely useful form of diversification income, and if you sell produce on the farm (perhaps you have a farm shop) then you'll also gain some 'captive' customers for that too.
Many farmers enjoy engaging with those who aren't lucky enough to live in the countryside and answer questions about the realities of farming, food production, animal welfare and local wildlife. Some CL visitors have been known to return year on year to the same CL to assist with lambing etc.
Visitors generally welcome the fact that they are 'closer to the countryside' and will tolerate animal smells, sheep bleating and tractors working etc. but it can be worth setting expectations on your description, and perhaps designating your site as Adult Only or Dog Free, depending on your farming environment and the proximity of the CL site to stock, machinery, animal housing or busy farmyards.
Although caravans probably outnumber motorhomes, their popularity is declining due to the regulations now in force regarding towing. Caravans come in all shapes and sizes, but they are certainly getting bigger (both longer and wider) and more sophisticated. Most new vans now have some form of electric heating for cold evenings or winter months, and this change (from the days of on-board gas heating) means that Owners with sites providing EHU need to factor into their pricing (especially if open in winter months) the additional costs. Caravans tend to stay on site longer than motorhomes and are a little less susceptible (if they are towed by 4x4) and/or have a motor mover, to getting stuck in wet ground, but may need more manoeuvring space to access pitches / negotiate gateways.
Motorhomes are welcome on the vast majority of CLs and their rising popularity means that CL owners are gradually adapting their sites to meet this demand and the specific needs of motorhome owners.
Sales of motorhomes in the UK continue to rise year on year. Motorhome owners like the easy set up when they get on-site and of course they don't need a special towing licence. Most motorhomes have an on-board loo & shower but smaller campervans may not. Most motorhomes are front-wheel drive and do not cope well with wet or sloping grass fields and are prone to get stuck in mud. Motorhome owners appreciate a 'drive-over' waste-point but these are a relatively costly investment for the average CL.
Motorhomes tend to stay 1-3 nights on a site, whereas caravans are more likely (on average) to stay longer. Understandably, Motorhome owners tend to choose sites within walking distance of a pub, shop or public transport and may favour sites with hardstanding or at least a well-draining field.
A few CLs on highly-popular Motorhome touring routes (mostly in Scotland) have reported an issue concerning campervans and motrhomes that use these CLs to top up their water tanks & batteries, empty their rubbish & Chemical toilet and only stay 1 night before setting off again to 'wild-camp' elsewhere. Consequently, they are raising their 1-night-only prices by £5 or more to cover these inflated costs.
The layout of a CL will vary enormously. Some CLs are large open spaces or fields with no defined pitch location allowing visitors to pitch where they like and for grass damaged by awnings to recover. Other CLs will be neatly tucked into an orchard, large back garden or the corner of a field. Pitches will need to observe the minimum distance rules and minimums are set out by the club, but the actual layout is up to the owner.
Tips if you are setting out a new CL: Easy access from the gateway is crucial and its wise to have hardcore or similar in the gateway in case of bad weather. Allow generous room for manoeuvring. An easy stroll to the CDP / Recycling and water (if not at each pitch) is preferable and pitch orientation to maximise views / evening sunshine. Level pitches are much preferred, especially if on grass and you expect motorhomes to visit. Many CLs now show aerial views of their layout on their website or club website.
There are currently 370+ Off-Grid CL sites in the Club. There is also a dedicated Facebook group for all things Off-Grid, a great place to promote your site to 12,400+ members.
An Off-Grid CL is a good way and with little outlay to start a CL. A lot of CLs may have started this way and over time added other facilities.
Certain members may want more and more facilities but it seems more also want less and cheaper because they can be more independent. They just need somewhere to park!
In the early 70's EHU simply wasn’t a thing! Truth is, now it has never been easier for members to go off grid & gain “power freedom” with the use of solar panels, LED lighting, legally refillable LPG bottles, Lithium leisure batteries and even a 240 volt inverter for those who can't do without the coffee machine or microwave!
This allows members to make more of their budget by the use of simple, uncomplicated, inexpensive sites with some in amazing locations away from the national grid!
Research entitled 'Pitching The Value' conducted by Frontline Consultants and sponsored by an array of the interested bodies including the CAMC concluded that the sector as a whole contributes £9.3 Billion to the UK economy and accounts for 171,000 jobs.
The average price per night of a CL is between £14 and £15. They range from £5/night to over £30/night. We believe any site charging less than £10 is not covering its costs, even if it is a basic / off-grid CL
Visit England also published a study in 2014 about the value of tourism to the countryside and rural areas. The average Spend Per Night was £67 and the average duration was 3.54 nights. This was across all accommodation types. More research & advice from Visit Britain
Although 2020 was extremely challenging for the whole of the UK tourism sector, CL owners who were able to open and meet the Covid rules found themselves busier than normal. Indeed many CLs in popular locations were turning visitors away as the 'Staycation' trend boomed in the UK.
Industry sources also suggest that sales of new and second-hand caravans and motorhomes met record levels, paving the way for more 'new to CL's' visitors in 2021.
Reacting to this demand, and seeking to assist CAMC members, The Owners Group launched the 'CL Booking Group on Facebook and published regular Availability Maps. These resources helped Members find CLs with pitches to sell.
The nitty gritty details you need if you're running a CL
At least 30 CLs now help members see the availability of their site and book directly with them by using a booking system. These are available to incorporate into a website for minimal investment. For example 'Free to Book' is a free service which charges for extras, while the Owners Group has negotiated special discounts with two popular UK-based full-function services; Anytime Booking and InnStyle which charge around £20/month and may include a website.
The Owners Group ran a Zoom chat and demo on these systems in November 2020. A recording is available via our Members Only Page.
All CLs have to provide visitors with rubbish bins, it is your choice as to whether you provide recycling bins, but most CLs do this. A dedicated area, a little way away from the actual pitches that is gravelled or concreted, and perhaps sheltered from view (and perhaps the elements) is preferred. Clear labelling of your local recycling rules is essential as visitors may assume that the same rules apply as at home - and they invariably aren't the same! A dog-waste bin is a nice-to-have'. Be aware that your local council may designate this as Trade Waste, and charge you for removal.
If you are not on mains drainage, a tank to hold Chemical Waste (a Chemical Disposal Point or CDP) is an essential requirement for all CLs. Most CLs site the CDP within easy walking distance of the pitches, but again (like the bins) out of sight. Some kind of flushing arrangement is essential so that the chemical cassette can be rinsed. There is specific guidance on this as mains water must not be allowed to 'flow back' when near a CDP. Emptying the CDP tank is another major expense to factor into your budget.
Caravans and Motorhomes also produce 'Grey Water' this is the run off from their showers and kitchen sinks. Most vans collect this in a 'Wastemaster' tank and then need empty this. You could possibly have a dedicated soak-away with, or if your site is well-drained and not too busy, you may welcome the grey water emptied into a hedgeline or around growing trees. If you are thinking of 'Fully Serviced Pitches' then a grey-water drain point can be part of the installation and ideally situated below the fresh-water tap. Some Service Bollards have this as an optional feature.
Many CLs now offer WiFi to their guests. If your property has decent broadband provision it is relatively simple to install a WiFi antenna and allow your guests to use it. Some CLs prefer a dedicated broadband line for the CL (sometimes shared with their B&B or glamping operation). It is worth investigating with equipment suppliers the security aspect so that WiFi usage is logged in case a visitor 'misuses' the internet in some way. Whether you charge for WiFi is debatable. If you charge for it, you are more obliged to ensure it works, than if it's provided on a 'best efforts' free basis.
Despite a number of efforts by the Caravan & Motorhome Club, and this support group, the number of Certificated Locations in the network continues to decline year on year. We record the number of CLs available to members every month from the Club website. The year-on-year trend shows a net loss of around 130 CLs since late 2016.