The present arrangements appear to work, the council said. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The present arrangements appear to work, the council said. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The British Mountaineering Council said it was disappointed not to have been consulted over the launch of a commercial wild camping scheme.

The council, the representative body for climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers in England and Wales, said the existing arrangements seems to be working well.

UK Wild Camping has suspended its service, which involved would-be wild campers paying £20 to receive a grid reference of a site where they could pitch their tent with the landowner’s consent.

Two national parks, the South Downs and the Lake District, were involved in the project.

The plan, which was launched at a Houses of Parliament attended by Lake District National Park Authority chief executive Richard Leafe, was roundly condemned by the outdoor community. The commercial venture, which received ‘seed-funding’ from the UK Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, promised to pay half the fee to the landowner; a quarter to the national parks and a quarter to the company running the scheme.

BMC’s access and conservation policy officer Cath Flitcroft said: “The launch of a new wild camping website with support from Defra and two national parks allowing anyone to ‘book a spot’ in a remote area for a fee and experience ‘wild camping’ was seen in late May 2019.

“The idea has been met with anger and negativity from across the outdoor community and the website content has since been removed.

“The BMC believes that wild camping should encompass the freedom to choose where to camp, without any regulations, to be self-sufficient and to do so in a discreet and responsible manner, in wild places away from civilisation.

Cath Flitcroft: 'disappointed not to have been consulted'. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Cath Flitcroft: 'disappointed not to have been consulted'. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“In Scotland this is permitted under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, but in England and Wales it is not considered legal unless the permission of the landowner is obtained. However, there are some parts of England where wild camping is either legal, eg Dartmoor, or generally accepted – the Lake District – and many people wild camp discreetly in our hills and mountains, following a strict ‘leave no trace’ ethic.

“This appears to function well in practice. In the BMC’s opinion, asking for payment in return for ‘exclusive rights’ to camp in a specified area is not wild camping.

“The BMC is disappointed not to have been consulted over the Defra-backed pilot scheme or to have been included in discussions with the group responsible for the website as they developed their ideas and thinking.

“We are keen to meet with the group responsible to find common ground and discuss a way forward.”

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