CAMPAIGNERS are hoping to create stopover points – or aires – across the North-East and North Yorkshire so campervans can park and sleep overnight.

The Campaign for Real Aires UK (CAMPRA) is appealing to local authorities and business owners across the country to allow overnight parking in car parks.

The idea comes from France, where there are a myriad of ‘aire de service’ – an ‘area of service’ – that have waste facilities and parking bays for motorhomes.

The group says aires would boost tourism but the proposal has had a mixed response across the region.

CAMPRA organiser Tracey has been involved in the campaign since June 2020 and stresses the difference between motorhome stopovers and camping.

She said: “We are forced onto campsites but don’t camp – we park. Campsites have massive staff costs and clubs, they charge according to what they provide. We just want a parking space."

Tracey, who previously toured Europe in her motorhome, added: “This is not about me but because I want our country to have more tourism.”

Some pub and business owners do allow campervans to park overnight, often as long as they spend money in the venue.

The Green Tree in Tudhoe Village, Durham, has been offering its side carpark as a motorhome stopover since 2019.

Owner Murrie Venise, who highlights the venue's promiximity to countryside walks and Durham city, said: "A lot of people can't or don't want to go abroad so this lends itself perfectly to staycations.

"It really took off before it was scuppered by the pandemic, but we have started taking bookings again.

"It works both ways, they give something back to the business."

Those who use the inn's six parking spots often know each other, Ms Murrie said, adding: "They are a community. We have met some lovely people."

The CAMPRA group on Facebook has over 21,000 members.

Abbie Silivistris, of Marske-by-the-Sea, supports the CAMPRA campaign and believes staying in car parks instead of campsites means people are more likely to give back to the local economy.

She said: “People think you are being cheap but aires encourage spending in local businesses. If you spend money on a campsite you will stay there and not experience the town. If you park up close to town you will walk around and spend there.

"Motorhomes are not getting out an awning or BBQ, they are just sleeping.”

Kielder Forest and Water, in Hexham, recently began allowing campervans to park overnight for a cost, which goes back into running the facilities.

A spokesperson from Forestry England, who has led the changes at Kielder, said: “We currently allow motorhomes to stay overnight in our car parks at Elf Kirk, Kielder Castle, Skyspace and also at Northumbria Water’s Tower Knowe for £10 per vehicle.

“The pilot has been very successful in formalising overnight stays by reducing antisocial camping in other areas of the forest and also ensuring motorhomes park responsibly, toilet facilities are provided overnight. We don’t currently have plans to roll this out more widely at this time.

“Added to this we have just this month joined up with the new operators of the Anglers Arms Kielder Village so that motorhome owners can also pay for their overnight parking to make their experience seamless.”

Durham County Council is also exploring ways to welcome motorhomes.

The Northern Echo: Motorhomes parked up for the night. Picture: TRACEY/CAMPRA

Dave Lewin, Durham’s strategic traffic management section manager, said: “We welcome more than 20 million visitors to the county annually and it is important that we have the right infrastructure and facilities in place for them.

“We are delighted to be working with CAMPRA to explore how the county and local businesses can maximise opportunities for tourism by encouraging overnight and longer stays in our county, at sites with facilities for motorhomes.”

Some free overnight parking is available in the Ryedale area of North Yorkshire, where district councils are responsible for off-street parking and could decide to introduce aires – but some councils have concerns.

Though it has no “immediate” plans to develop aires, Hambleton District Council recognises the increased popularity of motorhomes.

A spokesperson said: “It’s a potential area of development for the district council.

“We expect that demand for overnight motorhome stops is being met by privately run sites.”

Richmondshire Council is concerned about criminals and is therefore "unable" to support the campaign.

A spokesman said: “We have seen some anti-social or illegal activity in some of our car parks overnight which supports our current position.

“There is a fear that if we allow aires this will also allow access for local criminals and this is something we want to avoid, particularly where residential areas are in close proximity.

“The only way to control access would be on-going and expensive overnight patrols, something we have not got a budget for.

“We will keep this position under review but it is worth noting that there are a number of overnight camp sites in our district which can accommodate motorhomes.”