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Dartmoor landowners win authorized struggle in opposition to wild tenting with out consent

Wild campers have visited Dartmoor for over 100 years (PA)

Two landowners have received a Excessive Court docket problem in opposition to the fitting to wild camp with out permission in Dartmoor Nationwide Park.

Farmers Alexander and Diana Darwall argued that some wild campers on their land brought on issues to livestock and the setting and sought a court docket declaration that members of the general public may solely pitch tents there in a single day with their consent.

The couple have lived at Blachford Manor in Devon since 2013 and their 3,450-acre property within the southern a part of Dartmoor covers land on the distant Stall Moor the place they’ve a cattle herd.

The Dartmoor Nationwide Park Authority (DNPA), which defended in opposition to their Excessive Court docket declare, mentioned the case was an “assault” on a “long-established follow of nice significance”.

The dispute centered on the interpretation of a 1985 legislation that regulates entry to the moorland, with Mr Darwall, a hedge fund supervisor, and his spouse arguing that it was not supposed to offer a proper to wild camp.

In a ruling on Friday, a choose agreed and concluded that the Darwalls have been entitled to a declaration that the laws “doesn’t confer on the general public any proper to pitch tents or in any other case make camp in a single day on Dartmoor Commons”.

Sir Julian Flaux added: “Any such tenting requires the consent of the landowner.”

The choose mentioned his ruling would imply that “DNPA and all walkers and riders on the Commons know the place they stand and what rights they’ve”.

Dartmoor Nationwide Park, designated in 1951, covers a 368-square mile space that options “Commons” – areas of unenclosed privately-owned moorland the place locals can put livestock.

The Darwalls had turn into involved concerning the potential hurt of untamed tenting on Commons close to Stall Moor, the place they hold cattle, lambs and fallow deer, the court docket was beforehand instructed.

The DNPA argued that wild tenting – the place backpackers keep in a single day away from conventional campsite amenities – is permitted as long as individuals don’t trigger injury or breach native restrictions.

Proper to roam campaigners and Inexperienced MP Caroline Lucas beforehand protested exterior the Excessive Court docket in London final month over their opposition to the Darwalls’ authorized problem.

At a listening to in December, Timothy Morshead KC, for the Darwalls, mentioned they aimed to “enhance practices within the space” and that getting the court docket’s steerage on the legislation was higher than pursuing trespass allegations in opposition to “some unlucky particular person”.

Mr Morshead mentioned the Darwalls “don’t query the general public’s proper to stroll and trip on the commons” however whether or not they can camp there.

He mentioned the 1985 legislation was designed to deal with “a perceived lack of a proper to roam” and that it was “no a part of the legislative function to take away the requirement of landowners’ consent for tenting”.

Timothy Chief, representing the park authority, argued that “tenting is a type of open recreation which is permitted on the commons”.

The lawyer mentioned in written submissions that there was proof of a “native customized” of untamed tenting on Dartmoor and argued there was “no compelling proof” that it harmed the ecology of Stall Moor or that it “provides rise to substantial nuisance”.

Mr Chief mentioned the Darwalls had a “slender” interpretation of the 1985 act, including that wild tenting was a type of recreation “loved on Dartmoor for over 100 years”.

He mentioned Stall Moor gives the general public with a “wilderness expertise” and that wild tenting was “solely suitable with the needs and particular qualities of the Nationwide Park”.

Sir Julian Flaux mentioned that earlier than the 1985 legislation was made there was no authorized proper of entry to the Dartmoor Commons, nor to wild camp there.

He mentioned the that means of the laws was “clear and unambiguous” in that it conferred a “proper to roam” which didn’t embody “a proper to wild camp with out permission”.

The choose mentioned that “the impact of the statute giving a proper to wild camp with out permission can be that the landowner would have suffered a lack of management or a usurpation of his rights over his personal land”.

He additionally discovered that the DNPA had not established that there was a “settled follow” of untamed tenting on Dartmoor.

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