While campsites cannot take long-term visitors, despite the demand, those looking for a forever home often use them as a short-term solution to finding a home locally
BY CONOR POWER
IT might not feel like it just yet, but summer is fast approaching and the lack of available accommodation in hotels in West Cork is as pronounced as anywhere else in the country.
The combination of the housing crisis and the need to accommodate war refugees has exerted unprecedented pressures on available options, and the tourist industry has become an unexpected victim of the situation.
In the midst of the crisis, observers have queried where the region’s campsites might have an impact on helping things improve.
After years of slow decline, the camping and caravan sector got an unexpected boost from the lockdown era. Demand for campsite accommodation went through the roof, along with the sales of tents and camper vans, as we fell back in love with the Irish campsite. But will holiday campers soon be joined by those desperate for more permanent accommodation?
While most campsites in West Cork haven’t experienced people looking for permanent accommodation on their grounds, some of them have had enquiries – particularly those located near major centres of employment. However, the planning permission of these sites as touring campsites means that their ability to offer permanent accommodation is, at the least, in a very grey area.
‘Every day we get calls from people looking for long-term accommodation,’ said Elaine Sexton of Sexton’s Caravan and Camping Park in Timoleague. ‘It’s not just this year, either. We had that last year as well … but we can’t accommodate them.’
‘Yes we’ve had people looking to stay here all year long,’ agreed David Jennings of Desert House Camping in Clonakilty. ‘But we’d have to charge something stupid for them to do that … and besides, we can’t have people staying here permanently anyway because we’re a touring site.’
It was something similar in Ardfield. ‘We’ve got a few phone calls from people looking for long-term letting,’ noted Con Hegarty of Mountain Forge Escape campsite, ‘but we can’t offer them anything. One thing we are seeing, and especially with English people, is visitors who’ve sold their house and are living out of a camper van while they look for a new one … we had another lady from Cork staying with us recently, who had also sold her house and was with us for two months before she moved into a house she bought in Leap.’
It’s a trend that has been seen in other parts of the region, too. At Hungry Hill Lodge and Campsite in Adrigole, owner Jamie Botermans says that she hasn’t had any enquiries from people looking to stay at their site on a permanent basis, but she has had guests who were staying while they organised more permanent accommodation.
‘We had a French family staying with us, who were looking for a house in the area,’ said Jamie. ‘In the meantime, they have left because they found a place to rent.’
The campervan love affair has certainly helped alleviate part of the current crisis. ‘It seems to be a trend that, with retired people especially, people sell their home, buy a campervan and decide to travel throughout Ireland, or even Europe,’ added Jamie. ‘It isn’t just Irish people and we are getting more and more people from the UK, staying with us, who are looking for a house in Ireland. The main reason we hear is because of Brexit. Most of them just stay two to five days and then move on.’
For those coming from elsewhere to find their forever home in West Cork, camping or campervan-ing seems to be one of the few affordable solutions they have left, for now at least.