An agricultural expert is warning farmers keen to cash-in on the temporary campsite trend that they may be putting their businesses in jeopardy as they face a ‘risk minefield’.
The number of farms offering pop-up campsites has soared this summer, boosted by a change to government planning policy and rising demand for staycations.
New regulations allowing farmers in England to operate a campsite without planning permission up to 56 days – double the usual 28-day limit – was extended to the end of 2021, in an attempt to bolster farmers’ income and encourage domestic holidays.
Matt McWhirter, of rural insurance broker Lycetts, said that although the exemptions are welcome relief to farmers, as they grapple with subsidy withdrawals and Covid-19 impacts, the same relaxation to the rules does not apply to insurance.
He warned that farmers may be putting themselves at risk by operating pop-up campsites, as they may be unwittingly contravening insurance requirements or unknowingly have gaps in their cover.
Mr McWhirter said: “It is understandable that farmers and landowners want to take advantage of the opportunity to generate additional revenue, particularly at a time when the industry is feeling the economic squeeze and demand for camping is high.
“But although requirements are not having to be met from a planning perspective, this is not the case for insurance cover. Insurers may have strict conditions on such things as hygiene facilities, health and safety assessments, fire risk assessments and site access, and also impose restrictions on what the policy will cover, so farmers could be left exposed to gaps in protection.
“Farmers may not be aware that they need to inform their insurer of their intentions before they set up camp, as they could be in breach of their farm insurance policy. They need to tread carefully as they face a risk minefield.”
Mr McWhirter said that farmers should be wary that opening their land up for temporary use could result in visitors returning in future years when they aren’t operating the campsite, causing a trespassing nuisance.
But inviting the public on to working land was the most pressing issue to consider.
“Agriculture has a notoriously high injury and fatality rate – higher than any other industry – with 34 deaths occurring in 2020/21, a 62 per cent rise on the previous year,” said Mr McWhirter.
“It is not just workers who are killed and injured every year, members of the public are often victims too, so farmers should not underestimate the importance of keeping the public and working farm separate.
“Farmers should clearly mark the areas where public access is permitted and where it is forbidden and outline to any visitors the limits of the campsite. All measures should be taken to keep livestock and machinery secured and away from visitors and farmers should consider providing helpful advice to visitors on how they can stay safe during their stay.
“Additional cover may be needed, such as public liability insurance, to mitigate against the risk of someone getting injured on site or making a claim.
“For anyone who has already jumped on the pop-up campsite bandwagon, it is imperative that you speak to your insurer or broker today to ensure all bases are covered and you aren’t putting either enterprise in jeopardy.”