Camping in the Wild in Norway – Caravans – Housebouts – Mobile Homes and Public Access to Land.

1. Brief description of the concept of Wild camping.

a. The term Wild camping.

It means the location and use of caravans and other facilities on private land outside regulated campsites, or houseboats used on the sea, lakes and watercourses. It is often the case that such placement of family and friends is granted to those who use such a way of vacation.

The legal basis for regulating and controlling such activities can be found in the Plan and Building act of Norway, section 20, passage 1, letter j and related regulations. The provision allows for interpretation and is practiced differently in municipalities that need control and regulation in this area.

b. Background and history.

The relationship with section 20, 1, j, in the Plan and the Building Act are discussed in several circular letters from the Municipal and Regional Ministry and the Ministry of the Environment. This must mean that the phenomenon Wild camping is not unknown to state authorities.

In addition, in several municipalities there are statutes related to section 20, 1, j that stipulate the regulation of camping and the placement of caravans outside the area regulated to the campsite as well as the use of houseboats as mentioned above.

The starting point is that the placement of temporary buildings, constructions and facilities must be reported to the municipality in advance. Temporary facilities that are transportable can be placed for up to two years on built-up property without the need to send a message to the municipality. This does not only apply to real estate with a year-round dwelling in the form of detached houses. Common to both is that they cannot be set up until the municipality has given consent if they are to stand for more than two years.

2. Wild camping – management perspective.

a. Relations with public law and regulations.

Plan and Building Act.

The location of temporary or transportable buildings or facilities is mentioned separately in the Plan and the Building Act with the relevant regulations and guidelines for the regulations. This applies in relation to case handling and control of such cases. It is section 20, 1 j with a possible municipal statute that regulates this area. It may be stipulated in such a statute that temporary or transportable buildings, structures or installations as the law expresses them, cannot be placed within specific parts of the municipality’s area.

The area plan of the municipal plan can also be used to prevent uncontrolled anchoring of floating jetties and houseboats along the coast and in water and waterways. The Planning Jurisdictional Interpretation No. 1/99 from the Ministry of the Environment states that:

The Ministry of the Environment assumes that the type of floating cabin the application
applies to is regarded as a temporary and transportable building that is covered by the plan and section 85 of the Building Act. structures and facilities are not placed in such a way as to obstruct public traffic or outdoor recreation or otherwise cause significant inconvenience to the environment. The placement of such facilities must be notified in advance to the municipality and placement for longer than 3 * months (* changed to 4 months with effect from 1.7.2003) requires the consent of the municipality. Through the statute, the municipality may also prohibit anchoring of these types of facilities for a shorter period of time.

The mentioned section is refering to the old Plan and building act of Norway.

In addition, control can be achieved with anchoring of floating cabins, houseboats and the like through the area portion of the municipal plan by specifying the sea areas for special use or protection according to plan and section 11 – 5 in the Plan and Building Act.

It will probably be an advantage for the public that there are not two different sets of rules for statutes and plan provisions dealing with the same theme. When there are several ways to deal with the same issue or area, it will often be unclear how the provisions should be interpreted in cases where the different provisions do not harmonize or contradict each other.

Temporary buildings, plants and constructions cannot be erected until a notification has been sent to the municipality. Transportable buildings, plants or structures do not require notification if they are to be stuck for a shorter period of time than 2 years. Common to both categories is that they cannot be set up until the municipality has given consent if they are to stand for more than 2 years.

No neighbor notification is required in section 20-1 cases. However, the rules of the Public Administration Act rules states the administrative agencys reporting and information duty as for other cases dealt with under the Plan and the Building Act.

Outdoor Recreation.

According to section 9 of the Open Air Act, tenting or other stay in the outfield is not allowed for more than 2 days at a time without the owner’s or the users consent.

Consent for longer stays is not necessary when it comes to stays in the high mountains or in areas remote from buildings, unless the stay can cause significant damage or inconvenience to the surroundings. This is the so called public access to land regulations.

Public Roads Act.

The Road Act of Norway contains provisions that will have consequences for an illegally established campsite or a more random location of caravans or other constructions when exiting the national road, county road or municipal road.

b. State authorities.

State authorities’ involvement in the field of wild camping appears to be limited to regulations and guidance for the plan and the Building Act. This is also the situation for houseboats.

Wild camping is also mentioned in some county sub-plans, including as state input to the plans.

c. Municipal authorities.

Municipal authorities’ enforcement of the wild camping area will be through the processing of reports on the location of caravans and other facilities, especially in connection with the sea, water and waterways.

Municipal authorities shall primarily treat such notifications in accordance with the Plan and Building Act as individual cases. A statute may be drawn up in accordance with the same statutory provision as mentioned above. It cannot be designed for the entire municipality, but only include more specific areas mentioned in the statute. Municipal authorities may also handle such cases in accordance with the other statutory provisions referred to under point a. Relations with public law and regulations.

The situation is, however, such that the municipalities receive a few notifications according to the said provision. The current legal provisions that are meant to regulate the area of wild camping do not work as far as I can see. They are largely dormant provisions that do not work in practice.

There are sanctions available when the provisions of the Plan and the Building Act are not complied with. The same applies to rules on access to appeal for those who may think that the public has made a wrong decision in this area.

When it comes to municipal services such as health and social services, psychiatry, teaching, day care, culture and other municipal services, much of this is regulated by special laws in the various areas. For example, the municipality is obliged to provide health and social services to all persons staying in the municipality. Services such as teaching and kindergarten will rarely be relevant in this context, but should be provided by the municipality of residence.

d. Other themes.

With regard to the phenomenon of wild camping in a management perspective, the picture is by no means clear about the legal and political opportunity to steer such initiatives in a direction desired by society or the municipality.

As mentioned, the legal instruments appear to be in place, but are difficult to enforce. The provisions of the plan and the Building Act and associated regulations can be used in relation to individual cases or statutes. Other laws do not specifically address the area. Here, in case of a concrete assessment of, for example, exits, renovation or sanitation issues, the purpose of the respective statutes’ purpose and scope and the municipality’s statutory exercise of authority in the relevant area must be based on. Then the individual case and any permits or refusals must be assessed on the basis of the current situation and the provisions mentioned.

3. Wild camping in a user perspective.

a. Users of wild camping – users wants and needs.

Wild camping is a common denominator for many ways to vacation outside of approved campsites.  It is a holiday form that encompasses everything from staying in motor homes to getting stuck somewhere with your own caravan or tent. A reason for vacationing in this way can often be a desire for greater freedom than staying at an approved campsite allows.

It is often the case that relatives and friends gather with their caravans on their own land where the landowner often also has his caravan. If the property is in close proximity to the sea, water or watercourses, a stay will be extra attractive.

In such a holiday form mentioned above, camping guests will often not feel the need to have sanitation and renovation of the same standard as at an approved campsite. They often arrange this by using family or friends owned houses or buildings where caravans, motor homes or tents are located.

Another factor is that those who use this holiday form also do it to save money. They may want to use it as a stay in an approved space costs for other things. Many may find it too expensive to place their caravan at an approved campsite on an annual basis. Connection to childhood homes and own property is often taken care of by the property being used as a holiday resort in the summer.

It is argued that people must use wild camping solutions because in some parts of the country it is very difficult to rent a caravan space on an annual basis. According to the industry, this is a temporary argument because the country as a whole should be an excess of seats at approved camping sites. However, this picture varies between the different regions.

For those who are satisfied with the type of accommodation, no public regulation or restrictions are sought in relation to the possibility of placing tents or caravans where they wish. The public is not so very concerned with the phenomenon. One of the explanations for this is probably that laws and regulations can be relatively unclear with regard to the possibilities to regulate and sanction in this area.

From a public point of view, nationwide seems to be sufficient for the number of approved campsites where a stakeholder is allowed to sit without having to wait on a waiting list. However, there may be regional exceptions here. This is especially true for Southern Norway.

b. Wild camping information.

A municipality can, by its own initiative, implement information about wild camping on a general basis. What speaks to this is that the local conditions are often relatively small, so that individuals or groups of people in the municipality who have an involvement in the area can feel stigmatized and well in the local spotlight. Local newspapers will often grasp such a theme.

It would probably be best if the larger community (the state) could implement information measures, often combined with stronger measures (sanctions) in laws that deal with wild camping and other related areas that society needs to regulate.

A municipality has a relatively small room for maneuver in the area, and also has few measures in relation to restricting or reversing a development where motor homes and caravans and houseboats are placed outside areas regulated and approved for such activities.

The wild camping curve is likely to rise in Norway. This makes it necessary to clarify and change attitudes to the phenomenon of wild camping by the authorities.

1 thought on “Camping in the Wild in Norway – Caravans – Housebouts – Mobile Homes and Public Access to Land.

  1. Carl says:

    Well written Steinar👍.

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