Àirigh – Motorhome stopover sites possible in Highland

The Highland Council is believed to be the first local authority in the UK to temporarily relax licensing regulations to enable landowners with suitable sites to provide continental style motorhome stopovers known as ‘Aire’ – Àirigh (meaning Shieling in Gaelic).

Highland Council is adapting to the significant increase of motorhome ownership in the UK and the demand for self-contained holidays by creating an opportunity to offer small, simple and low-cost short stopovers for motorhome visitors.

Chair of the Council’s Tourism Committee, Cllr Gordon Adam said: “The demand for traveling via motorhome has been intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result has created significant pressures for safe overnight parking in our rural communities.  The Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to a temporary relaxation of planning controls allows The Highland Council to consider temporary use of appropriate locations for overnight stops in motorhomes without formal planning permission.

“To mitigate some of the problems experienced in the summer of 2020, temporary ‘Àirigh’ will offer a safe, off-road location for motorhomes to park for the night and help alleviate parking problems experienced in rural areas. Aires are used all over Europe and Àirigh could offer an opportunity to assist the economic recovery in Highland. We encourage any community groups or landowners that may have suitable land to submit a short enquiry form to the Council’s planning team.”

Chair of the Council’s Communities and Place Committee, Cllr Alan Henderson added: “Dedicated motorhome parking areas are provided in many European countries and these bring welcome tourists into well-known and undiscovered areas alike. Aires make suitable night stops all year round. The Highland ‘Àirigh’ symbolise the freedom of motorhoming and reflects the way people are choosing to holiday. This approach is necessary in Highland to allow us to adapt to the increased popularity of this type of travel and to mitigate the problems experienced in many communities from overnight parking in unsuitable places and congestion caused in ‘beauty spots.”

As part of the Council’s Visitor Management Plan ambitions, the authority has created a landowner guide to create temporary motorhome stopovers. The guide is intended to give an introduction to what can be provided with minimum legislative constraints. However, it is important to note that no separate legal definition of an “Àirigh” or “Aire” currently exists, so the guidance is based on existing legislation relating to planning and licensing of caravan and campsites and when or where any exemptions exist.

The Highland Council proposes to take a constructive approach to support businesses, community groups and individual landowners who wish to offer their car parks or land to address some of the pressures anticipated during the 2021 season. This change allows temporary use of appropriate locations for overnight stops in motorhomes without the need for formal planning permission, where it is considered safe and reasonable.

The Council has also been working with communities and a number of commercial campsites to ensure waste disposal options are available around the Highlands for those visiting in motorhomes. Work is also being undertaken in partnership with the Campervan and Motorhome Professional Association (CAMPA) who promote the range of these facilities through their website and other channels. Weblink campa- waste disposal (external link)

The temporary relaxation of planning control will be kept under continual review and will remain in place until 31 December 2021 or until the requirements for physical distancing have been removed.

The guidance gives a brief introduction as to what can be provided by communities and private landowners. As not all proposals will necessarily be deemed appropriate, anyone interested should complete a short enquiry form and submit it to Planning.Technical@highland.gov.uk  and a planning officer will contact you to discuss.

2 Jun 2021