Following the court ruling last week that no rights to wild camp existed under historic laws permitting access for ‘recreation’, it was thought that wild camping on Dartmoor could be a thing of the past – at least for anyone especially law-abiding. However, the Dartmoor National Park met with the Dartmoor Common Owners’ Association on 18th January and agreed in principle for permissive rights for camping to continue. Here’s the press release:
Agreement has been reached that will enable people to continue wild camping in parts of Dartmoor National Park.
Landowners and the National Park Authority have worked together to agree a way forward following the High Court judgment published on Friday.
The Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association and the National Park Authority met yesterday (18 January 2023) to discuss how wild camping on the Dartmoor Commons might be facilitated going forward.
Agreement was reached in principle on the following:
• Landowners will grant permission to the Authority to allow the public to wild camp through a permissive agreement.
• This new system will provide clear guidance on what constitutes wild camping based on the principle of ‘leave no trace’.
• Areas where the public can wild camp without seeking individual permission from landowners will be communicated via an interactive map on Dartmoor National Park Authority’s website in the coming days.
Anyone planning to wild camp now or in the future must refer to the interactive map and follow all ‘leave no trace’ principles.
Whilst the agreement is completed, wild camping (including Ten Tors and The Duke of Edinburgh Award) is permitted with immediate effect.
John Howell, Chair of Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association, said: “We recognise the importance of people being able to enjoy the natural beauty of Dartmoor, including through wild camping, and the benefits that this can bring.”
Dr Kevin Bishop, Chief Executive of Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: “We have all worked quickly and collectively to ensure clarity is provided. Our thanks go to those involved in the discussions who have engaged in this process so positively and proactively. We’re committed to working together to continue all our good work that helps keep Dartmoor special for everyone.”
All present at the meeting were clear that there is no place for illegal fly camping on Dartmoor. ‘Fly camping’, which often involves large groups with barbecues or open fires, should not be confused with true wild camping and will continue to be prohibited.
While this is welcome news for anyone hoping to use the area with confidence that they won’t be ‘moved on’, the fact remains that this is a permissive right, rather than an absolute one, so the position is still poorer than when it was considered that historic rights were in place.
Update, 20th January
The National Park has now created a Wild Camping page with map on its website. This makes it clear that under the agreement, the public will not have to pay the landowners to wild camp. However, the Park Authority will have to pay the landowners to secure this permissive right. As yet, that amount has not been agreed, and no source of funding has been identified. However, the National Park is predominantly publicly funded and will be asking DEFRA for extra, so ultimately it seems likely that the public will be paying for this permissive right.
What will this new permissive system cost?
People wild camping will not be charged under this system. It is free at the point of delivery.
The new agreements will involve a payment to landowners by DNPA, but the amount has not yet been discussed in detail. These costs have not been budgeted for by the Authority. We will be writing to Defra to ask if they will provide funding to support this process.Dartmoor National Park Website FAQs
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