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Height Barriers vs Campervans in the UK – How Low Can You Go?

It is no secret that the use of height barriers in the UK is increasing. They are an extremely effective way for local councils and private land owners to reduce the number of vans in their car parks. You will now find it almost normal to see barriers in the most popular city centre and beach car parks. This article will discuss the average heights of these restrictions. This should be of interest to any prospective campervan owner who is considering their roof options.

1.9m Height Barrier
Credit: North Wales Live – Height barrier installed to keep out Travellers

What is the Height Range of Height Barriers?

Height barriers are generally between 1.9m and 4m in height with the vast majority being somewhere between 2.0m and 2.5m. This also happens to be the height range for most campervans. There are more and more barriers appearing which are below 2.0m. It is not uncommon to find restrictions of 1.9m and even 1.85m in some areas. While these extra low barriers successfully keep out low roof vans they also create problems for owners of certain types of SUVs or cars with roof boxes.

Are the Heights Marked on Barriers Accurate?

The heights marked on the majority of height barriers are not accurate and should be taken as a guide only. As a general rule the actual height of the barrier will be 5-10% higher than the marked height. This means that the height of the average 2m barrier will probably be somewhere between 2.1 and 2.2m. However, there are cases when the barrier is exactly the same as the marked height. This means that you should always check before trying to drive under a barrier which is close to the height of your van.

Can the Actual Height be Lower than the Marked Height?

In our experience this can be true. Although we did not measure it we were unable to pass under a 2.1m barrier in the city centre of York. The height of our van is close to but below 2.1m. A additional problem that has been experienced by van drivers is that the exit barrier to a car park is lower than the entrance barrier. See this forum post on Honest John for the full story. So entering a car park safely does not necessarily mean that you will be able to exit without a problem. The advice is to always check if you are close to the limits. This post on a VW forum gives several accounts from people who suffered damage to their vans when pushing the limits!

How Many Beach Car Parks Have Height Barriers?

A recent increase in wild camping and the use of day vans in the UK has led to a corresponding surge in beach car park barriers. The image below shows a part of Sheppey Beach before a 2.2m high barrier was installed in 2020.

Beach Car Park No Height Barriers
Credit: Kent Online – Swale council installs height barriers to stop campervans and motorhomes
This quote is taken from the article in Kent Online.

Cabinet member for environment, Cllr Tim Valentine (Green), said: “We are installing the new height restriction barrier on the Shingle Bank to ensure there is room for visitors of the beach to park safely.”

“Those driving campervans and motorhomes have previously misused the car park to stay for extended lengths of time instead of using the nearby holiday parks.”

However, there are still a huge number of car parks where there are still no barriers. As a rule, they are installed in only the most popular places and usually at a height of around 2.1 or 2.2m. This is good news for campervan owners with pop top roofs. They generally have a height in the region of 2.0m to 2.1m.

What Height are Barriers in the City?

In general city centre car parks have height barriers in the region of 2.0m. However, most city councils will always provide at least one car park without height restrictions. You can normally find this out by searching online for the local council parking information for the area you are visiting. While many retails parks and larger supermarkets do not have any height restrictions there are a few exceptions. This is normally in response to a previous incident with unwanted travellers and you can expect to see barriers around 2.2 to 2.5m in height.

What Height Restrictions are there in National Parks?

National Parks, Areas of Natural Beauty and other local nature reserves tend to have fewer height restrictions than at the coast. As an example, the Peak District National Park which has 45 car parks state this on their website:

None of our car parks have height restriction barriers in place and are therefore suitable for small to medium sized motorhomes.

This is due to the larger number of people entering these areas with roof racks loaded with bikes and kayaks etc. It is very difficult for local authorities to install barriers in these car parks without risking a backlash from the regular users.

The Final Word

The increase in the number of car park height barriers does seem likely to continue in the future. For anyone considering buying a campervan this could be a major factor in deciding what van height to choose. Our advice is that if you intend to visit popular touristic areas, especially around the coast or in the city, then you can expect to find height barriers in the region of 2.0m to 2.2m.

However, if you are looking to spend time away from the crowds then there are still plenty of parking options out there for someone with a high top campervan.

What is your experience? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Next: Wild Camping on Private Land – Is it Legal in a Campervan in the UK?

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