By Rob Kershaw - LDRS
Councillors in Torridge have overwhelmingly called for the district council to campaign against a ban on wild camping in Dartmoor.
Last month, a court ruling made it illegal to pitch tents in Dartmoor without the landowner’s permission. Days later though, the national park came to an agreement with some landowners, and will pay them to allow people to camp. However, this is a year-long agreement, and the right to wild camp can still be removed at any time.
Liberal Democrats leader Cllr Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin (Liberal Democrat, Great Torrington) believes everyone should be able to freely roam and camp on the moor as long as they follow the ‘leave no trace’ principle.
While the Ten Tors event and camping for Duke of Edinburgh events are allowed again, Cllr Cottle-Hunkin is concerned for future participants.
“The recent court ruling to ban the right to wild camp really does affect the people of Torridge,” she said at a full council meeting on Monday [20 February]. “And I am deeply concerned on how this will impact on future generations.”
Cllr Cottle-Hunkin called on the authority to write to MP Sir Geoffrey Cox and prime minister Rishi Sunak to overrule last month’s judgement and reinstate the right to wild camp on Dartmoor.
The Lib Dem leader’s motion was not heard at the last full council meeting as the matter was not thought to affect Torridge residents specifically. Cllr Nick Laws (Independent, Westward Ho!) described this decision as “shocking”.
“We can’t just allow this to go forward,” he said. “We’ve got to put our weight behind it, it’s absolutely essential. Please, any time that the people of Torridge are affected, I don’t think we should be going by a rule book.
“And to see rules laid down for the sake of it is not good. We’ve got to resist it.”
Cllr David Hurley (Conservative, Shebbear and Langtree) disagreed with his colleagues.
“Surely this is something for the landowners to decide,” he said. “The landowner surely owns the land, and it’s up to them to decide whether they allow someone free camping or not. Where does it stop?”
Cllr Philip Hackett (Independent, Broadheath) argued that “it’s not a matter of lobbying,” adding that any appeal would need to be “on points of law.”
Nonetheless, the council agreed to write to Sir Geoffrey, the relevant secretaries of state and the prime minister to try to get the court ruling overturned.