Mobile homes: model standards for residential site licenses

Guidance to local authorities on site licence conditions for mobile home, park home or caravan sites which are licensed to have permanent residents.

Part 1: Introduction

1. Local authorities are the licensing authority for caravan sites in their area. Operators of caravan sites must apply to the local authority for a licence to operate. Local authorities can attach conditions to a site licence they issue, and this document provides guidance on the licence conditions they may wish to put in place. Under section 32T of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (the 1960 Act), if a site licence holder does not comply with a site licence condition they are guilty of an offence, and, if convicted by a court, can be fined. The new licensing system introduces a number of other measures that a local authority can take against a site licence holder who is not complying with any site licence conditions including the service of an improvement notice under section 32U of the 1960 Act.

2. The purpose of this document is to provide model standards for the licence conditions that a local authority can put in place when it issues, or reviews, a licence for a relevant permanent site (a caravan site with permanent residents). Such caravan sites are often described as mobile home or park home sites.

3. The model standards are published under section 5(6) of the 1960 Act. This states that:

"The Minister may from time to time specify model standards with respect to the layout of, and the provision of facilities, services and equipment for, caravan sites or particular types of caravan site; and in deciding what (if any) conditions to attach to a site licence, a local authority shall have regard to any standards so specified."

4. These model standards apply to licences for 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 there will be times of the year when no caravan may be stationed on the land for human occupation. In the main they cover sites which are residential mobile home sites that are licensed to have permanent residents. On mixed use sites the model standards apply to the parts of the site licensed for permanent residents.

5. The standards do not apply to:

  • caravan sites which are covered by the exemptions under the First Schedule to the 1960 Act[1];
  • sites that are used exclusively for holidays or touring caravan sites. For holiday and touring caravan sites the model standards set out in Circular 17/1990 continue to apply, although local authorities should use their judgement to make sure that licence conditions for such sites reflect modern standards and practice. The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, amended section 5 of the 1960 Act and added a new subsection 6A which provides that any model standards issued under section 5(6A) of the 1960 Act cannot cover those fire safety matters which are regulated by the 2005 Act.

6. The model standards are guidance to local authorities in considering what licence conditions they should put in place in their area, and set out an appropriate baseline for an authority's licence conditions. Under section 5(1) of the 1960 Act a local authority can issue a site licence "subject to such conditions as the authority may think it necessary or desirable to impose…" A local authority is not limited to only setting licence conditions set out in the model standards, and can take the view that it wishes to impose licence conditions that are not set out in this document.

7. While licence conditions need not be limited to those in the model standards, they should not place unreasonable requirements on site owners. Licence conditions should be applied which secure an environment that allows site residents to live safely on a site and which also take into account issues such as the amenity of the site. Local authorities should apply licence conditions that are reasonable, clear, proportionate and straightforward to comply with and enforce.

8. The model standards themselves should be applied with due regard to all the circumstances, including the physical character of the site, any services or facilities that may be already available within convenient reach, and any other local conditions. The relationship of the site to the broader environmental aspects should also be given careful consideration.

9. It is fundamental that decisions on site licence conditions are lawful, fair and reasonable. The Scottish Government guidance Right First Time provides a practical guide to help decision‑makers comply with these standards, available online at: Local authorities should ensure that their actions are in accordance with the Scottish Regulators' Strategic Code of Practice, available online at:

10. The site licence conditions that local authorities attach to a licence should reflect the relevant best practice and regulations at the date the site licence is issued. This means that over time conditions applied may vary from those in the published model standards. Work carried out on the site after the licence has been issued should comply with the statutory requirements in place at the time the work is carried out and may require further updating to meet changed standards. These model standards reflect best practice and regulations at the time they are issued (December 2018), and local authorities should check that they are aware of the relevant legal requirements (e.g. the latest regulations), relevant British and/or European Safety Standards, and any other relevant guidance or advice on best practice. A local authority should also ensure that in attaching conditions to a mobile home site licence it is reflecting the latest standards on the provision of services such as gas, electricity, water, drainage, sewerage and flood protection.

11. A new site licensing regime for sites with permanent residents, set out in Part 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 was introduced on 1 May 2017. The Scottish Government published guidance for local authorities on the new licensing system in April 2017 which is available at:

12. Holders of site licences issued prior to 1 May 2017 have until 1 May 2019 to apply for a licence under the new system. The new regime came into force on 1 May 2017 for those who are applying for a site licence for the first time. When a local authority is issuing a licence under the new system for a new or existing site it should examine the attached conditions and determine the licence conditions to put in place.

13. Where an existing site does not meet the standards set out in the model standards a local authority could consider a transitional period to allow the site to meet new requirements. Such a period should give a site licence holder a specific and reasonable amount of time to meet any new licence conditions. Any new conditions applied in light of the model standards should be reasonable and proportionate. In considering licence applications for existing sites local authorities should consider whether it is appropriate for each standard to apply. Where a current licence condition is adequate in serving its purpose, the local authority may consider whether to apply the new standard. Where it is appropriate to apply the new standard to a condition the local authority should be able to justify its reasons for doing so, having regard to all the relevant circumstances of the site.

Fire Safety

14. Fire safety obligations are imposed on duty holders by Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 (the 2005 Act). Whether these fire safety duties apply in respect of premises, or part of premises, depends on whether the premises, or part of the premises, are 'relevant premises' as defined in section 78 of the 2005 Act. A mobile home which is used by someone as their residence, whether as owner or tenant will be domestic premises and not relevant premises. A residential site itself will be relevant premises where it contains units, and the units or pitches are rented on a commercial basis, regardless of whether the occupiers of the units are owners or tenants. Where mobile homes are used as a private residence, each pitch and the mobile home on it will be considered domestic premises and outwith the control of the 2005 Act, regardless of whether the occupier is an owner or tenant.

15. The fire safety regime in Scotland requires those persons with responsibility for non‑domestic premises (duty holders) to put in place appropriate fire safety measures, based on an assessment of risk. More than one person can have fire safety responsibilities for the premises. However this responsibility will be in direct proportion to someone's level of control - the more control a person has over the premises, the greater their responsibility. In accordance with the 2005 Act a duty holder must make sure that appropriate fire safety measures are put in place on the basis of an assessment of fire safety risk.

16. Further information on the duties and requirements under Part 3 of the 2005 Act is available online at: Particular guidance on caravan sites can be found at annex 3 of which sets out the following benchmarks in relation to spacing and car parking:

  • Subject to variations, the distance between any two units should generally be not less than 6 m for permanent residential sites.
  • The 6 m distance between units may be reduced where caravan construction is inherently fire-resistant. Under such circumstances, the distance may be reduced to 5 m. Where there is a mix of fire-resistant and non fire-resistant construction, the larger separation distances apply.
  • The distance from any part of a tent or caravan to any site road should be not less than 2 m, and not less than 3 m from any site boundary.
  • One car only should be permitted to park between adjoining units subject to the entrance to the unit not being obstructed. Plastic or wooden boats should not be kept between units.

17. These model standards do not make any provision for fire safety, as site operators must comply with the fire safety regime set out in the 2005 Act. The 2005 Act amended section 5 of the 1960 Act and added a new subsection 6A which provides that any model standards issued under section 5(6A) of the 1960 Act cannot cover those fire safety matters which are regulated by the 2005 Act.

18. The process of fire safety risk assessment should be on-going. If there is a reason to suspect that the current fire safety risk assessment is no longer valid, or if there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates, then the assessment must be reviewed by the duty holder and any changes in the fire safety measures required must be made to ensure continued compliance with the said Act and Regulations

19. Free advice is available from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service on technical details and options for compliance; however the duty holder is responsible for carrying out the fire safety risk assessment for their premises; and identifying and implementing the fire safety measures necessary as a result of the findings of the fire safety risk assessment.

Showpeople Sites

20. Some mobile home sites are used as homes by showpeople, people with small businesses 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.

21. If a showpeople's site does require a licence, local authorities should be aware that provisions that may be necessary for a mobile home site may not be appropriate for a showpeople's site. We encourage local authorities, in licensing such showpeople's sites, to consult with those living on the site and any relevant representative body (such as the Scottish Showman's Guild[2]).

British Standards

22. In a number of places this guidance refers to the relevant British Standards. These are published by the British Standards Institution, and can be obtained online at


23. There are three parts to this guidance:

24. This guidance is not an interpretation of the law. Local authorities are advised to obtain their own legal advice if they have any questions about what site licence conditions are legal and appropriate for a site in their local authority area.


Email: Diane Steele

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