UK Nightstops for Motorhomes – The Practicalities

NightstopA discussion on this subject has been running on the Caravan Club’s Forum, Club Together, for a couple of weeks but  an attempt to concentrate on the practical design aspects has run into difficulties, with too many off-topic and otherwise unhelpful posts.  So I thought I would offer a more sheltered opportunity to progress the discussion on this Blog.

The proposition is that Nightstops for motorhomes (and potentially caravans) have developed along ad hoc and sometimes messy lines on the Continent, so could the Caravan Club, a big player in the UK recreational market, do better for UK by developing a more planned and coordinated set of nightstops to complement their existing and extensive network of large touring camp sites and smaller, five van, certificated locations?

Small ones?

Small ones?

Nightstops provide overnight parking and they might also have facilities for taking on water and dumping tanks, but they are not campsites.  They don’t provide the facilities of campsites, like shower and toilet blocks or resident staff.  They are for short stays, either as rest stops in transit or sleeping locations while touring an area, rather than for any sort of residence.  At their simplest they are simply car parks where motorhomes are permitted to stop overnight.

Parking rather than camping rules will therefore apply and the units will usually be closer together (i.e. parked side by side) rather than spaced out as on campsites, with room for awnings and tables and chairs.  They are therefore more like lorry parks, where drivers can park together, sleep for a few hours, maybe do some local shopping or visiting and then move on.

Big ones?

Big ones?

Along transit routes, nightstops on the Continent (called Aires and Stelplatz) are often large parking areas and they get very busy but nightstops are also found in rural villages and those may accommodate only a small handful and rareful be full.  Parking may be restricted to motorhomes but is often shared with other vehicles, including lorries, although caravans are often prohibited.

Piecemeal development is taking place in UK using a mixture of exiting locations like pub and other car parks and some local authorities in tourist areas are recognising the value of providing for motorhomes rather than shunning them, but it’s patchy and slow.  There are hopes for a positive impact on local tourism and businesses and concerns about an adverse impact on campsites and about Travellers and others abusing them.

There is an article on the All the Aires Website which condenses ideas from continental experience and suggests way to construct a good nightstop – and this is worth everyone who is interested in this topic reading as background information.  The message is that they can be successful (and lucrative) but money should be taken for parking charges rather than services like water, which it is expedient and more practical to provide free of charge instead.

Service points can be simple

Service points can be simple

Could a big player like the Caravan Club usefully get involved and start to develop a network of Nightstops, big, small or a mixture, to compliment its camping locations?  And if so what types should they be and where?

The Motorcaravan Club is actively engaged but is trying to provide nightstops as small camping locations, which brings them under camping regulations.  The Caravan Club is already planning to give Nightstops consideration and is being encouraged to think outside that box – and the discussion on their Forum has already developed into the nuts and bolts of the idea: the types and sizes and locations and practical design aspects.

But it is getting clogged up with a lot of off-topic stuff, hence this invitation to discuss.  Anyone may contribute but please note that comments which aren’t about the nuts & bolts of nightstop development and design will not be accepted.

How do you think nightstops can best be developed in UK?   Over to you  ……………………………………………

9 Responses

  1. Bolero Boy (Chris) says ........

    Hi Stuart, hope this will be a calmer area to kick stuff about.

    Ok, lets start. From a practical perspective, I think that we understand the basics of what each site will contain….some parking spaces, fresh water, waste dump….Nice to haves….possibilities… EHU, payment facilities, entry/exit.

    I think we need to be a bit firmer on who is going to be involved in the provision. If Caravan Club they have already expressed a preference fpr developing existing assets rather than new aquisitions, this will be on cost and plannng reasons, no doubt. So, if CC are going to be looking at current sites, how do we make a decision on where this might happen?

    Im sure CC will want to start small, selecting a couple of sites for enhancement and check carefully on the benefit factors that are hoped to be delivered…..good usage, reasonable return, no undue effect on sister site, etc.

    If they are to look at this, how do we help decide on the trial sites, what are the big influences……location (as in on a trunk route, close to a port, large town, etc) or ease of adaptability (the chosen site or sites have plenty of room, good access, can support separate MH service point, away from CC ‘camping’ patrons, etc).
    How are we to collate our thoughts…..via this blog no doubt…..what specific format or information is the CC looking for in any communication, for instance cost/benefit analysis……etc.

    Once the answer to these questions is known, perhaps we can think about getting something together.
    One thing i do know from managing third party suppliers is that they will have processes that they want to stick to, documents that they will have to produce and sign off at each stage and we will have to supply the missing elements where possible.

    I also think that the CC need t o give us, sooner rather than later, a bit more than ‘they are exploring’……what they find needs to be shared to help guide us in the right direction as their ‘info’ might be legal stuff, planning issues, way out costs etc….

    I just dont see everyone working separately and goping to get it together later…..
    Havent meant to be negative (hopefully, the opposite) but i have written a lot of questions….

  2. Stuart says ........

    I wasn’t thinking we need to do their job, the project mangement or the financial decisions, and we would concentrate on identifying the preferences fro a user’s viewpoint, using our experience of the spectrum of continental aire and our knowledge of UK. So for example I reckon that the Service Area on the M^ Toll (assuming the Landowner is interested in allowing CC to take a slice) would become busy as a transit nightstop if it was kept tidy and secure and had the essentials like water and tank dumping. It wouldn’t need toilets because they are already there, so it could be relatively uncomplicated (compared with a Club Site) to construct. The location already operates ANPR for collecting parking fees, so that wouldn;t need any extra effport either. So that (or another motorway service area) would be worth looking at.

    The obvious way to orientate the parking would be like a lorry car park, with a maximum of two motorhomes nose to tail per lane, so they could both get out, and some single occupancy lanes for caravan outfits. We leave all the details to CC Management.

  3. Bolero Boy (Chris) says ........

    I wasn’t really suggesting that we do the project management for CC, rather that we will still need to tell them what we want, and where.

    The ‘what’ has a number of essentials, which will be present in whichever location they end up. The ‘ what’ will also have a number of variables which change with each ‘where’ as they might be site specific.

    Ive no personal experience of the motorway service stations other than stopping for a 10 min break (in car a d MH) and as such have taken very little notice of their suitability for development in this way.

    What info did the CC give regarding their willingness to look at sites they dont own?
    I thought that they had said they were (only) interested in utilising ‘existing assets’? This is an important point.

    The Clubs own sites are known, all owned by the same group and development controlled internally by them.
    Thinking about developing service stations means the club getting into contract negotiations with various companies. These might be interested in adding further facilities to the current offerings in order to attract MHers using as stopovers.

    The difficulty is, where do we start? Do you look at service station locations by company and find a couple of good locations, then look at the additional elements needed – this ensures the CC deals with the minimum of companies or does the CC kick the ball around with various organisations, trying to sell the idea of modifying their offering to add ‘ stopover’ components?

    Either way, I dont think its possible to pick out specific locations (other than as an example of their generic qualities) as, until CC actually engage, we wont know the reaction. Yes, I understand, who ever the CC engage with (if anyone) whether internal management groups or other third parties, they will need a set of requirements. This needs to be documented though, currently, the list is concise.

    Just been reading up on producing a User Requirements document; it needs a little thought beyond just half a dozen lines – need to get into some specifics about space required, how payment is made, access to the site area, access to water and waste etc, maximum amount of water dispensed, card/token/coin operated, change given? EHU – how many, what amperage?

    This seems to me to be the next step, producing something physical (in draft) to allow to CC to better understand what is being asked for.

  4. Stuart says ........

    CC haven’t limited their interest in any way – but nor have they started looking at it properly yet either. I suppose my sketch of how a motorway service area could be used is an aim at showing how simply and cheaply a nightstop could be developed if existing tarmac is available, but still deliver value to the CC “brand” by its preesence – to illustrate one potential variant.

    It sounds like you are the eman to do the documentation!

  5. Bolero Boy (Chris) says ........

    Haha, Father of the Bride speech comes first, lol!

  6. Stuart says ........

    Brevity is desirable in both cases! ;)

  7. Bolero Boy (Chris) says ........

    Just had another look at the UKNightstops website, there is a lot of info there and one of their aims is to promote the cause of the MH community and work with others to set up aires etc.
    I was wondering if, with all their knowledge of the pitfalls etc, they have ever considered working with a group like CC to make use of their assets?
    At least they would be coming from a position of strength and experience……

  8. Stuart says ........

    Sounds interesting – don’t think I have seen it. Seen The Motor Caravan Touring Organisation website at:

  9. Bolero Boy (Chris) says ........

    This one i think it was…