Concern is growing among outdoor professionals about what they see as a fundamental mistake in Downing Street’s rejection of the recent e-petition to allow wild camping in England.
Wild camping in the Lake District
In giving the thumbs-down to Darren Christie’s appeal to legalise wild camping south of the border, the Prime Minister’s office said: “On open access land wild camping is prohibited under Schedule 2 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which lists all restricted activities.” Yet Andy Say of Mountain Leader Training England says this is not so.
The act simply details restrictions on people exercising the right of access, one of which is camping. It does not actually prohibit this activity; it says that walkers using the CRoW Act cannot claim the right to camp while exercising their rights. The danger, says Mr Say, is that Downing Street’s erroneous interpretation of the law may lead to some landowners trying to use the Government’s response to justify kicking campers off open land.
Mr Say said: “The government has said that the 2000 CRoW Act prohibits wild camping on open access land, but this is not the case.
“The CRoW Act states where walkers have the right to roam. It does not say what you can and can’t do as part of your walk. All the CRoW Act says about wild camping is that you cannot use the act to justify that you have a legal right to do it. The act definitely does not prohibit wild camping. Misuse of this word confuses the issue, as wild camping discreetly on remote fells is tolerated by many landowners, like the National Trust in the Lake District.”
Any potential prohibition would cause immense problems for the Mountain Leader training scheme, which many leaders undertake in order to lead groups on the uplands of the British Isles.
Mr Say said: “I have grave concerns over misuse of the word ‘prohibited’. Wild camping is a mandatory part of Mountain Leader Training Award assessment and provides adventure for a great many walkers. The latest Government’s misinterpretation could give landowners the carte blanche to charge or even evict us from land which we have used for years.”
Andy Say, the MLTE executive secretary, is so concerned about the Downing Street response, that he is urging outdoors enthusiasts to respond to the Prime Minister’s office. If you share his worries, copy and paste the message below and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Sir or Madam
In this response you state:
'On open access land wild camping is prohibited under Schedule 2 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which lists all restricted activities.'
This is, I believe, a fundamental misinterpretation of both the intent and the actual framing of the CRoW act. The schedule 2 list is a list of activities that are not specifically allowed under CRoW; it is not a list of activities that are prohibited under that Act. The statement given in the above response is therefore fundamentally wrong in law.
I feel very strongly that a retraction of this statement is required.
Meanwhile, Darren Christie reacted to the Government’s rejection of his original petition by saying the backers of it are considering their next move and the level of support.
He said: “It’s not quite as negative as it reads at first and the Marine Bill was always likely to get first crack at the available resource and backing.
“But the elephant is now firmly in the room.”
And Jamie Hickson has already reposted an e-petition calling again for the legalisation of wild camping, this time including both England and Wales.
The new petition can be seen on the Downing Street e-petition website.