MP calls for safeguard to public access on Dartmoor

No, it’s not any of the Devon Tory MPs. – Owl

The MP for Tiverton and Honiton, Richard Foord, is calling for the Government to safeguard people’s right to use Dartmoor for wild camping. 

Philippa Davies 

A recent High Court judgement ruled that individual Dartmoor landowners have the right to remove people from land they own within the National Park. There has been growing concern about how this will be enforced and the implications it would have.  

Mr Foord says many local residents have contacted him to express their anger and concern. Many fear that this will undermine the South West’s tourist trade and affect events that rely on Dartmoor for training, such as the Ten Tors Challenge and the Duke of Edinburgh award – both of which are undertaken by schools in East Devon.  

He has tabled a motion in Parliament celebrating the success of the Ten Tors challenge and calling on the Government to bring forward new legislation that would guarantee the continued right to camp on Dartmoor. He is asking other MPs across the area to back his motion. 

Mr Foord said: “Dartmoor is an amazing place. It is one of the few areas in England where you can cut away from the noise of 21st century life and get lost in nature. Spending the night on Dartmoor allows you to properly switch off from the sound and fury of modern life.   

“The recent ruling means that our right to pitch a tent is now at risk of being brought to an end by wealthy landowners. It should not be the case that vast tracts of our National Park are effectively fenced off to the public.  

 “So many people have been in touch with me to express their anger at the ruling and concern about how our green spaces are to be used. Dartmoor is a place for rest, recuperation and healing, and it should stay that way.  

“The Conservative Government must act on this. So far, they have failed to respond to the ruling or even bring forward a statement on the issue. This indifference is damning, and it is angering communities across the South West.”  

2 thoughts on “MP calls for safeguard to public access on Dartmoor

  1. Shame to hear the news that a London couple have been to court to remove some ancient local liberties in Devon. There is an old slogan – ‘property is theft’, and you can see the relationship quite clearly in this case. I assume the culprits are those mentioned in an earlier piece in EDW which starts…

    ‘Alexander Darwall, a City fund manager, and his wife, Diana, own 2,784 acres in south Dartmoor. They have filed a case questioning the legal basis of the authority’s bylaws, which allow for responsible backpack camping, where campers leave no trace in permitted areas of the national park.’

    I thought this had been sorted out on Kinder Scout in 1932 and in the postwar legislation for National Parks. Maybe we should dust off the direct action option again at some point, but with tents this time. I hope to see status quo ante return very soon.


  2. The Tory playbook in use at present has deep historical roots. The Dartmoor issue stirred the straw in my head to memories of enclosures, dispossession of the commons, and the legal appropriation of property rights by landowners in the long eithteenth centure. Many folk have already pointed to the echoes of early 19th century capitalism as a model for today’s Tory politicking, but there is no shortage of examples in any period you care to name where the rich and powerful impose on the poor and weak for their continuing sustenance.

    Consider for a moment or two the parallels with this clip from the Statute of Labourers – passed in parliament (all landowners) in 1351 because there was suddenly a unique opportunity for workers in the wake of the Black Death pandemic, which had reduced their numbers dramatically and thus prompted a considerable increase in their market value. The authorties were not best pleased when that advantage was put to practical use in labour relations.

    The Statute required…. (editorial remarks in parenthesis)

    …That every person, able in body and under the age of 68 years, not having enough to live upon, being required, shall be bound to serve him that doth require him, or else be committed to gaol until he shall find surety to serve, and that the old wages (pre pandemic rates) shall be given and no more; whereas lately it was ordained by our lord king (Edward III) and by the assent of the prelates, earls, barons and others of his council, against the malice of servants who were idle and not willing to serve after the pestilence without excessive wages, that such manner of servants, men as well as women, should be bound to serve, receiving the customary salary and wages in the places where they are bound to serve in the twentieth year of the reign (1347) of the king that now is, or five or six years before, and that the same servants refusing to serve in such a manner should be punished by imprisonment of their bodies, as is more plainly contained in the said statute.

    Not much between that and today’s industrial policy….

    It was arbitrary power like this (among other influences) that sparked the peasants’ revolt in 1381. In a modern but similar multi-generational push back, it has been the trade unions, for the last 200 odd years that have developed the means to address the problem consensually. The Tory response to that is now just to knock down the unions as far as they can and attempt to reinstate an arbitrary centralist power structure. The same impulse is behind the Brexit bonfire of regulation so popular among adherents of the European Research Group. We now have a government that is dangerously anti-democratic in its ambitions and getting less embarrassed about who knows it. They know they’re done for, but Tories are never slow to put spiteful, ideology driven self interest above the public good during their death throes.

    As a paid up member of the Crop Relief Operatives Workers (CROW) I would find a picket line to join in support of the public sector heroes that saved us in the pandemic. unfortunately, I have a long term mobility problem.


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