Licensing system for mobile home sites with permanent residents: guidance for local authorities

Guidance for local authority officers in Scotland who are involved with permanent mobile home site licensing.

Chapter 1 - Introduction


1.1. On 1 May 2017 a new licensing system will come into force for relevant permanent sites. The new system puts in place a new, robust, licensing system. The key measures of the new licensing system are:

  • giving local authorities a range of powers, and appropriate discretion in deciding how to use them, in relation to the granting, management, and revocation of licences;
  • introducing a 5 year licence period;
  • introducing the requirement that a site licence holder (and anyone directly managing a site) is a fit and proper person;
  • an effective process for site owners and site licence applicants to appeal against decisions by the local authority.

1.2. The framework for the new system was considered and passed by the Scottish Parliament as Part 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 (the 2014 Act). Part 5 of the 2014 Act inserts a new Part 1A in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (the 1960 Act). The new system was developed over several years, and followed two public consultations, and research in 2013 by Consumer Focus Scotland. This research found residents and local authorities had experienced problems with maintenance, security or safety standards on sites; and issues around intimidation, abusive behaviour, vandalism, violence, or damage to property.

1.3. In February 2016 the Scottish Government finished consulting on the regulations that would help to support the operation of the new licensing system. Following consideration of the consultation responses we laid the final version of The Licencing of Relevant Permanent Sites (Scotland) Regulations 2016 before Parliament in December 2016, and they completed the Parliamentary process in March 2017.

Purpose and status of this guidance

1.4. This guidance is for local authorities, and is primarily for those local authority officers who will be involved in running the licensing system in their area. The intention is that it provides advice and suggestions for local authorities on how to operate the licensing system effectively. This guidance sets out what is required of a local authority (and others) under the Part 1 A of the 1960 Act, but is not a guide on how to operate the licensing system in every situation. It will be for local authorities to decide questions relating to individual cases in their area, within the framework of Part 1A of the 1960 Act and the 2016 Regulations.

1.5. Under section 32Z7 of the 1960 Act a local authority "must have regard to any guidance published when carrying out its functions" under Part 1A of the 1960 Act [1] . This guidance is not a substitute for formal legal advice. The 2014 Act has been passed by the Scottish Parliament, and it is for the courts to interpret the law. Local authority officers dealing with the licensing of relevant permanent sites should consider seeking legal advice if they believe they need advice on the legal aspect of a specific case.

1.6. While this guidance is for local authorities, it will be of interest to others connected with the licensing system, such as site owners, site residents, and other public bodies ( e.g. the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, etc.). Alongside this guidance we will be publishing information on the new licensing system on the Scottish Government website.

Who is covered by the new licensing regime?

1.7. The new licence regime only applies to sites which are used as relevant permanent sites. This excludes land for which planning permission or the site licence is granted, for holiday use only or on the basis that that there will be times of the year when no caravan may be stationed on the land for human occupation. In the main the regime covers sites which are residential mobile home sites that are licensed to have permanent residents. Holiday sites that do not require to be licensed to have permanent residents are not affected by the changes.

1.8. On mixed use sites the site owner will need to apply for a licence under the new system, and the new licensing regime will apply to them and others involved in running the site.

Private Gypsy/Traveller sites

1.9. Private Gypsy/Traveller sites are licensed as caravan sites by a local authority, and are therefore covered by the new licensing regime.

Showpeople sites

1.10. Some mobile home sites are used as homes by showpeople, people with small business who travel to fairs etc. to work. Under paragraph 10 of the first schedule of the 1960 Act showpeople sites that are only occupied for certain months of the year are exempt from the licensing regime. Local authorities will need to explore the circumstances of those living on showpeople sites in their area ( e.g. for which months of the year someone lives on a site) to determine whether the exemption applies.

Who is not covered by the new licensing regime?

1.11. The new licensing regime does not cover sites, or parts of sites, that are not relevant permanent sites. So it does not include sites, and parts of sites, that are only used for holidays.

1.12. There are also some exemptions from the licensing regime. These are covered in more detail below in section 11. We will highlight here that a site where the only permanent occupiers are employees (for example a site manager living in a mobile home on a site used for holidays), will not require a site licence under the new regime. [2]

Link to model standards

1.13. The Scottish Government publishes model standards for caravan / mobile home sites, which provide advice on the site licence conditions a local authority may want to put in place. The Scottish Government plans to publish updated model standards which will be available on the Scottish Government website. Until the new model standards are issued those set out in Circular 17/1990 continue to apply, although local authorities should use their judgement to make sure that licence conditions for sites reflect modern standards and practice.

Transitional arrangements

1.14. Those who already have a licence under Part 1 of the 1960 Act have until 1 May 2019 to apply for a new site licence. The new regime comes into force on the 1 May 2017 for those who are applying for a site licence for the first time.

Licensing Committees

1.15. There is no requirement in the 1960 Act that decisions on mobile home licensing be carried out by a committee of the Council, such as a licensing committee, as there is for some other licensing regimes. The duty falls on the local authority, so each authority can decide how it will handle and make decisions in relation to a site licence.

General approach to licensing

Scottish Regulators' Strategic Code of Practice

1.16. Local authorities should ensure that in running the new licensing system they take account of the approach to regulation set out in the Scottish Regulators' Strategic Code of Practice. The Code is focussed on the roles and responsibilities that regulators have, and sets out the approaches that regulators should adopt. The Code of Practice is available online at:

Getting it Right First time

1.17. A decision on a site licence, as with all decisions a local authority makes as a public body, must not be arbitrary and should follow basic rules of administrative justice. The Scottish Government guidance Right First Time provides a practical guide to help decision makers comply with these standards. It is available online at:


Email: Ged Millar

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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