DIRECTORS and officials of the Dartmoor National Park Authority have said they will discuss appealing against a High Court decision prohibiting wild camping.
Wild campers were dealt a blow in January when a case brought by wealthy landowners Alexander and Diana Darwall found in favour of banning camping on Dartmoor without landowners’ permission.
Following the ruling, the Chief Executive of the DNPA – Dr Kevin Bishop – said it may appeal the judgement in the future “if sufficient grounds present an opportunity to do so”.
The authority says it has now been granted leave for an appeal and will discuss the next course of action with members at a meeting scheduled for Friday April 14.
“Notwithstanding the ongoing legal proceedings, the authority remains committed to working in partnership with landowners and others to ensure a permissive approach to backpack camping is successful,” a statement said.
Large swathes of Dartmoor fall under unique local laws which supposedly made it the only place in England and Wales where people had the right to overnight camp without the permission of the landowner.
Hedge fund manager Alexander Darwall has lived on his 4,000 acre estate – the sixth-largest estate on Dartmoor – with his wife Diana for a decade.
Lawyers for the Darwalls argued that the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 should exclude wild camping.
The act was created to keep intact the area’s historic custom of allowing access “to all the commons on foot and on horseback for the purposes of open-air recreation”.
Various outdoors groups – supported by The Dartmoor National Park Authority – believed wild camping was considered a part of ‘open-air recreation’ within the act.
However, at the January hearing, High Court judge Sir Julian Flaux sided with the Darwalls, stating the act did not “confer on the public any right to pitch tents or otherwise make camp overnight on Dartmoor Commons. Any such camping requires the consent of the landowner.”
There followed a series of protests demanding the High Court ruling be overturned. Thousands of people gathered on Dartmoor carrying placards, and many hundreds headed out to camp anyway – and continue to do so.
The Campaign Group ‘Right To Roam‘ has been the main voice against the January ruling, and is expected to lobby the DNPA to press ahead with an appeal.