Dartmoor is the only real area in England where – under the Dartmoor Commons Act – you have a legal right to camp in many areas of wild moorland.
Sadly, one of the big landowners on Dartmoor seems set on questioning that legal right. I’ve been very critical of the Dartmoor National Park Authority in recent years, but I was pleased to see that the DNPA is seeking to see off this landowner’s absurd legal challenge.
Pleased to see too that the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA), of which I was once chief executive, is backing the park authority in its fight. Today the DPA issued the following statement:
“Wild camping controversy
Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) said recently that it will defend wild camping on the moor, following a case brought by landowners to clarify current legislation.
Dartmoor is one of the few places in England which currently allows wild camping in certain areas. The DNPA fears that the case, if successful, could jeopardise overnight events such as Ten Tors and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award. It questions the legality of National Park byelaws, which allow for responsible backpack camping, where campers leave no trace in permitted areas of the National Park. The landowners argue that their consent is required and that, if it is given, this consent can be made subject to additional conditions and requirements.
Kevin Bishop, Chief Executive of the DNPA said the Authority would not give in to pressure, saying, “We will defend the right to responsibly wild camp on the moor because national parks exist to both conserve the environment and to create opportunities for public enjoyment and understanding of nature.” We agree. Responsible wild camping is not a threat to the environment nor a significant risk of wildfires. If the case is successful, it will open the door to other large landowners refusing members of the public the right to camp on Dartmoor.
DPA trustees have provided information to help the DNPA defend the case and in the meantime, there is little else to be done pending the outcome of the legal action. However, we view this as a very serious threat to a long-standing entitlement to public access. At a time when the need to provide public access to our countryside is greater than ever before, it seems unbelievable that it should be called into question.”
Well said, the Dartmoor Preservation Association – if you love Dartmoor please support the DPA by becoming a member, via their website.