National park bosses will oppose the application to the Supreme Court. Photo: Dartmoor NPA

National park bosses will oppose the application to the Supreme Court. Photo: Dartmoor NPA

National park bosses in Dartmoor said they will fight a bid to overturn a legal ruling that restored camping rights in the area.

Dartmoor National Park Authority has been notified that an appeal against the judgment has been lodged with the Supreme Court.

In January Sir Julian Flaux, Chancellor of the High Court, upheld Alexander Darwall and his wife Diana’s contention that the legal definition of open-air recreation did not include camping.

The hedge-fund manager, who has owned the Blachford Estate and Stall Moor, north of Ivybridge, since 2013, argued that the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 did not give the public the right to camp without the landowner’s permission.

The authority brought a case to the Appeal Court, which ruled that the act did permit backpack camping on some of Dartmoor’s commons without the permission of the landowner.

The authority said it was notified on 25 August that an application seeking to appeal the judgment had been lodged with the Supreme Court. The authority had 14 days to respond and the matter was urgently brought before members at their scheduled meeting today.

Members agreed to object to the application and, should the Supreme Court grant permission for a hearing, that the authority is represented to argue its case.

Speaking after the meeting, Dartmoor National Park Authority’s chief executive and national park officer Dr Kevin Bishop said: “We respect the right of Mr and Mrs Darwall to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court but are disappointed that the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal might not be the end of the legal process.

“The authority is clear about its role to protect opportunities for people to enjoy the National Park responsibly and in ways that are respectful of its environment and the people who live and work here.”

The continuing case hinges on the legal meaning of words in the act, specifically whether backpack camping on certain areas of common land counts as a form of open-air recreation and can be done without needing landowner permission first.

The authority said it has sought to defend the public’s right to access the national park for open air recreation ever since the case was brought before the courts, first at the High Court and then the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

An authority spokesperson said: “Donations of time and money are essential for us to be able to look after the heritage and wildlife of Dartmoor and to make it a place for everyone to enjoy today, tomorrow and for the future.”

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