National park planners have granted ‘temporary’ permission for military use of an area – for 40 years.
The chairman of Dartmoor National Park Authority said he hoped one day there would be no need for military training on Cramber Tor.
The Ministry of Defence had wanted indefinite consent to use the tor for ‘dry training’, not involving live firing.
The land is owned by South West Water and licensed to the military for training.
The exercises involve activities such as walking, map-work, laying wires for communication purposes, digging trenches, camping, military manoeuvres with troops including use of pyrotechnics, non-explosive devices, and occasional use of helicopters.
The public are excluded from the area during training.
The Open Spaces Society had objected to the application. Previously the use by the MoD was covered by Crown immunity rules.
The OSS said military use conflicts with the statutory purposes of national parks.
The campaigning charity said: “While we do not object to the low-key elements of the application, ie crawling, hiding, walking, running, cycling, cooking and camping, we do object most strongly to digging, wiring, blanks, pyrotechnics and flying, which are detrimental to the landscape and tranquillity of the moor, and of the public’s freedom to walk and ride there in beautiful and peaceful surroundings.
“We say that the Ministry of Defence has not proved an overriding need, in the public interest, for its application, nor has it provided sufficient proof that there are no alternative means of meeting any alleged need.”
But the committee today granted the MoD permission for 40 years’ use.
Bill Hitchins, chairman of the Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: “Today was the first time the authority has considered a planning application for military training at Cramber Tor on south-west Dartmoor.
“The authority has considered the environmental statement submitted by the applicants, the results of monitoring studies into military use of Cramber Tor, and listened to the views of the public and other consultees.
“In granting a temporary permission we have balanced the need for military training to support and equip our armed forces with the long-term purposes of the national park.
“We have imposed a set of conditions which will enable the military to train and for the national park authority to monitor and control the environmental impact of that training.
“Whilst accepting that the case is currently made out for training at Cramber Tor, the authority has not granted permission in perpetuity.
“The temporary permission granted means that there is a long-term stop date, and allows an opportunity for formal re-assessment of the case for continued training at that date.
“I sincerely hope that there will come a time when the military no longer needs to train on Cramber Tor as it hopefully means we live in a more peaceful world.
“Until that time we will continue to work with the military to minimise their impact and ensure the public’s enjoyment of this special place is not spoilt.”