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How To Set Up A Campsite In France

We sell to International clients as well as French natives. The reasons for moving to France varies for each and every one of our clients, however, the general consensus is that property and land here offer so much more in terms of value for money. Not only that, the slower pace of life, the excellent health care and public services is another big draw. There are some that wish to have a new adventure and try something new. Running a campsite could just be what you are looking for, in particular, if you require a visa business plan.

We should say, from the outset, that camping is huge in France which is unsurprising given what the country has to offer in terms of landscape, coastlines, mountains and climate. In fact, the vast majority of campers are French – many families go to the same campsite year on year meeting the same people. In fact, there is a very well know film comedy on this very fact entitled, unsurprisingly, Camping!

Did you know that nearly 70% of campers in France are French? Facilities are, by and large, very good, clean, easily accessible and this is one of the many reasons why it is an attractive holiday for French natives irrespective of income. Now, if you are going to run a campsite in France it is probably a good idea to buy one that is already established. This means that its usage has already set a precedent and continuing on with the campsite should not pose a problem. Always check with the local Mairie before deciding to purchase a campsite and have a discussion about taking it over and, if there are or could be, any restrictions in the future.

The most easiest or straightforward campsite to run would be ‘Camping à la Ferme’  which allows you to have 6 pitches with a maximum of 19 people staying on your land. You must provide toilets and a warm shower plus rubbish and recycling bins. Many do provide more eg. a shop, games room and other facilities. This is an idea way to make use of your land and generate an income alongside it.

If you wish to run a campsite on a piece of land then you will need to get permission to do so.  Every plot of land in France is categorised to determine whether or not it is constructible or non constructable. This is known as the Carte Communale. Local plans are known as PLU (Plan Local d’Urbanisme).

This would be your first port of call to determine what can and cannot be undertaken on the local land taking into account the local area and any planned development. As a general rule of thumb, the closer you are to town the more likely you will be able to get permission for a campsite.

You will need to consider your drainage needs – will you be on mains drainage or require a septic tank? There will be environmental factors to consider eg. traffic to the site, noise pollution, access including disabled access, the types of facilities that will be provided and health and safety requirements surrounding this. Your campsite must comply with ERP (établissements recevant du public) regulations – that is to say fire and disability risks. This is separate to your application for the campsite.

Will you have a swimming pool? Over ground swimming pools do not require a permit but should you wish to install a swimming pool into the ground, you will require planning permission to do so. In addition, there are strict regulations with regard to the filtering and emptying of the water. Once you have decided upon what type of campsite you wish to run and what kind of facilities will be available, it is imperative that you make an appointment with the local Mairie/Town Hall to put your initial plans and thoughts to them. After this, you will be able to submit you application to change the usage of the land to that of a campsite.

When requesting outline planning permission you do so using a form called a CU (certificat d’urbanisme opérationnel). You can outline your project in detail, but you are only required to submit limited plans and drawings. A site plan, service connections and existing uses, etc. If this is approved it is valid for 18 months which then gives you time to submit a detailed application. There are many hand holders in France that can help you with this should you find that you are unsure as to what to fill in etc.  This is your approval in principle and it does not mean you can start any works until you have the detailed application approved.

There are different types of planning applications/consents : DP (declaration préalable), or sometimes a PC (permis de construire), depending on the size and complexity of the proposal are for sites with 6 pitches of less. PA (permis d’aménager) is for larger sites with fixed caravans.  This is more detailed than the outline planning permission and will give you the full go ahead for your project so the dossier will be more detailed than your initial application to get approval in the first instance. Both are valid for a period of three years.

Finally, a mobile home or Glamping Pod should be no more than 35 m2 – anything over this will be considered to be a fixed dwelling and again will require planning.

Whilst the above may sound daunting – it is just a process in much the same way you would submit plans for change of usage for a barn, gîte conversion, etc. and is no different to rules in other countries. There are thousands of campsites all across France so it is not an uncommon practice. Most local communes are open to new investment and tourists arriving into their area and helping the local economy. If you have well thought out plans and there will  be no detrimental effect to the local area, there is no reason why your plans should not be approved.

We hope you enjoyed this insight into how you can go about setting up a campsite in France.


Guide To Buying A Campsite – French Property Links

You Tube Clip – Camping Film Franck Dubosc


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