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In a recent development, the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) has been granted permission to appeal a High Court ruling that caused a stir amongst wild camping enthusiasts. The decision came in January when a judge ruled that there is no right to wild camp on Dartmoor without landowners’ permission, citing a law from 1985. This ruling was in response to the DNPA arguing that wild camping was a local custom. Farmers Alexander and Diana Darwall successfully challenged the DNPA’s stance, citing concerns about the impact on their livestock and the environment.


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Permission to Appeal: A Beacon of Hope?

The DNPA, in its defence to the Darwalls’ High Court claim, made it clear that it saw the ruling as an attack on a “long-established practice of great importance.” The authority has said that it remains committed to working in partnership with landowners and others to ensure a permissive approach to backpack camping is successful. Despite the legal challenge, the DNPA has been granted permission to appeal the ruling. The decision on whether to proceed with the appeal will be discussed at a meeting of DNPA members on April 14.

The Dispute Over Interpretation of the 1985 Law: A Complex Matter

The dispute centred on the interpretation of a law from 1985, with Mr and Mrs Darwall arguing it was not intended to provide a right to wild camp. Sir Julian Flaux agreed and concluded that the Darwalls were entitled to a declaration that the legislation “does not confer on the public any right to pitch tents or otherwise make camp overnight on Dartmoor Commons.” Dartmoor National Park, which was designated in 1951, covers a 368-square mile area and includes “commons”, areas of unenclosed privately owned moorland where locals can put their livestock.

Concerns About Wild Camping Impact on Land: A Long-Standing Issue

The Darwalls had become concerned about the potential harm of wild camping on commons near Stall Moor, where they keep cattle, lambs and fallow deer. The DNPA argued that wild camping is permitted as long as people do not cause damage or breach local restrictions, and is a form of recreation “enjoyed on Dartmoor for over 100 years”. However, with the legal challenge from the Darwalls, it is clear that this issue is far from resolved. The Ramblers Association, a walking charity now known as the Ramblers, previously said the ruling was “a huge step backward for the right of everyone to access nature”.

The Impact of the Ruling: A Backward Step?

Unsurprisingly, the ruling caused a stir amongst campaigners who claimed there was a “long-established precedent” of wild camping on the national park in Devon. The Right to Roam campaign tweeted that the judge’s ruling was “an absolute outrage”, while the Dartmoor Preservation Association, an independent organisation interested in the moor’s ecology, said on Twitter that the judgment was “a great let-down for all who love Dartmoor”.

The DNPA’s Vision for Dartmoor National Park: A Compromise?

The DNPA’s vision is to provide opportunities for all parts of society to enjoy Dartmoor National Park while respecting and protecting its special qualities, while also respecting that the majority of the national park is owned by private individuals. The authority hopes to work in partnership with landowners and others to ensure a permissive approach to backpack camping that is successful. However, with the recent ruling and legal challenge, it remains to be seen how this vision can be achieved without infringing on the rights of landowners and the impact on the environment.

Conclusion: An Ongoing Debate

The debate around wild camping on Dartmoor National Park is a complex and ongoing one. With the DNPA granted permission to appeal the ruling, it is clear that this issue is far from resolved. While the DNPA’s vision for the park is to provide opportunities for all to enjoy its natural beauty, it must also ensure that the rights of landowners and the environment are respected. The debate around this issue will likely continue for some time, and it remains to be seen how it will be resolved.

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Hi I'm Oliver Smith, I would say that I take great pride in my work as a journalist and strive to produce high-quality, impactful stories that make a difference. With more than eight years of experience under my belt, I am passionate about uncovering the truth and shining a light on issues that matter.


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