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#Vanlife is a growth industry. Sales of motorhomes and camper vans have rocketed over the past five years as people decide to have a 'staycation' rather than book a holiday abroad. A motorhome means that you're ready to up and leave at any time, a spontaneity that can depend on the weather, your mood, the traffic.
From luxury RVs kitted out with all the mod cons to 1950s split screen VWs, and increasing number of us Brits are taking to the road with our homes on their backs... and we need somewhere to go.
Campsites don't offer the flexibility that many motorhomers crave, and if you own something with a fair amount of insulation and comfort, who needs a campsite if you have an onboard bathroom? Once the campsites close for the winter, an increasing number of folk don't want to hang up their keys for the season and want to literally carry on camping.
If you've ever hopped across the Channel, you don't have to go far until you fine an 'Aire,' a French stopover site where you can stay overnight, get washed, empty your loo, pick up food, have a shower. The locals have a steady all year round stream of guests spending there money and the motorhomers have somewhere safe and convenient to stay. Win-win.
While Scotland allows 'wild camping' as long as you don't take the p*** and take your rubbish with you, that sort of thing, England and Wales don't allow you to park up just anywhere. So its either a campsite or a car park where you can pay to stay overnight or stealth camping which doesn't suit everyone.
The overnight council car park has always been an option and there is none quite like Havant Borough Council's West Beach car park on Hayling Island. Blessed with spectacular sea views and some of the best sunsets around, for a long time motorhomers were welcomed with 24 hour toilets, showers, fresh water access and an ELSAN point. The charge was £15 from a stay from 10 PM until 6 AM but for that you would get to overnight in one of the most beautiful spots on the south coast.
Sadly HBC is now taking the attitude that many councils have and that's to stop it. At a time when motor homing is growing in popularity there are fewer places for them to go so its doubtless that they will head for the continent where the welcome is warmer, Brexit aside. Thats money not going into the local economy but going elsewhere.
So what to do? Simply lobby. So many councils have not really thought it through. It takes a minority of people to abuse the facilities and then a council closes its mind to the increased revenue and the good things that the motorhome community bring to an area. Oh yes, there's fear of 'travellers' but how long will we let these folk devils hold us back?
So, if you are a vanlifer in the UK and are concerned there are fewer places to stay each time you check one of your apps, get involved with other motorhomers in setting up a campaign group to get overnight parking on your local authority's agenda in a positive way.