Landowner extinguishes the right to wild camp on Dartmoor

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 13/01/2023

Today, the High Court ruled that wild camping on Dartmoor (the only place where it is legal in England and Wales) could only happen with explicit consent from the landowner.

In autumn 2021, Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) consulted the public on amendments it proposed to make to the Dartmoor byelaws relating to access land on Dartmoor which were adopted in 1985 and are therefore over 30 years old. However, the current landowners of an area of moorland sought a court declaration arguing that “members of the public are not entitled … to pitch tents or otherwise occupy Stall Moor overnight” except with their consent.

The case was taken to the High Court in December to decide whether the byelaws, as set out in the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985, allow for camping on Dartmoor. The act says “the public shall have a right of access to the commons on foot and on horseback for the purpose of open-air recreation” as long as they do not cause damage.

Arguing for the landowner, Timothy Morshead KC said the law did not mention camping and camping was not included, but Timothy Leader, arguing for the national park, said the law was purposely written to be as wide as possible to include all kinds of recreational activities.

Sadly, the High Court have today approved the judgement of the landowners stating that ‘the claimants are entitled to the declaration they seek that, on its true construction, section 10(1) of the 1985 Act does 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’.

The announcement today is a huge blow for the BMC and the outdoor community. This decision is a huge step backward for the right of everyone to access nature and we will continue to support the long-established precedent of wild camping across the Dartmoor Commons. The BMC will support the national park, help defend our rights of access, and work alongside other like-minded organisations to try to overturn this result. 

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4
13/01/2023
What did the BMC do to support the right to wild camp on Dartmoor in the lead up to the court case, and what will you be doing to oppose this decision now?
Anonymous User
18/01/2023
Right to Roam are holding a processional protest in Dartmoor on Saturday the 21st.
Are the BMC in support of this group campaigning for greater land access in England akin to Scotland and other European nations?
Anonymous User
18/01/2023
Being an avid wild camper for many many years all year round, I am sad at the latest news that
land owners want to stop people using their land. My suggestion would be for people like myself to apply for a payable licence which would allow responsible people like myself to carry as before. Fishermen get a licence which allows them to fish on the riverbank
Anonymous User
19/01/2023
There are so many petitions that have been rejected by government . How can we find the correct on to sign, and hiw can these all these be amalgamated. Anyone got any ideas

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