The progress to protect Dartmoor

Laura White
Laura White
© Roman Popelar

Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) has recently provided a progress update on work to amend Dartmoor’s byelaws.

The six-week consultation, which closed in November, 2021, attracted nearly 4,000 responses, which a team of National Park Officers has been carefully analysing. Some of the changes proposed caused uproar and outrage with members of the public, but were suggested due to the massive influx of tourists after the lockdown restrictions were
eased in 2020.

Dr Kevin Bishop, Chief Executive of Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: “We’re committed to ensuring Dartmoor has an updated set of byelaws which are fit for purpose, seek a consistent approach where appropriate to do so, and help protect the National Park for years to come.

‘We appreciate that people will want to know what’s going on and that’s why we felt it was important to provide this review update. We’re carefully and methodically working through all of the responses received. This is time well spent and is critical to the decision-making process and will continue into February.”

This update comes alongside the announcement that Defra are also looking into how to better protect places like Dartmoor. Current suggestions include Public Spaces Protection Orders being imposed in certain places on the moor, or fixed penalty tickets given out if people are caught breaking any of the byelaws.

Dr Bishop continued: “Further work will be informed by impact and sustainability assessments, evidence and legal advice. In view of this, we’re not yet in a position to schedule a firm date for when proposals will go to the Authority. We hope it will be this summer, but it is still too soon to know whether that is possible. However, we will continue to keep people updated as we go. While the review remains in progress, it’s important that everyone continues to respect the current byelaws. In doing so, you’re helping to ‘leave no trace, give nature space’ and are protecting this special landscape for everyone to enjoy.”

It was reported in The Moorlander last year that the Government were considering, on the advice given in a report from independent analyst Julian Glover, creating a central body to be responsible for all of England’s National Parks. Again, this proposal was met with unfavourable reactions from all whom it would affect. The Government have since decided that they would not spend money on creating a new body when the ones already in existence were doing just fine.

However, this still leaves the age-old problem of balancing tourism and nature, and while a few of DNPA’s proposals for changes to the byelaws were met with scepticism, it remains clear that something needs to change in order to protect the landscape and those people who live and work on the Moor.

In a statement, Defra said: “Since the  review was published, rangers in protected landscapes have observed increased visitor numbers and an increase in anti-social and hostile behaviour. In response, Natural England has revised the Countryside Code, and run a communications campaign to improve people’s understanding of the countryside and promote socially and environmentally responsible behaviours.

‘However, providing visitors with clearer information has not been sufficient to fully address these ongoing issues.

‘We are therefore considering making a greater range of enforcement powers available to national park authorities and the Broads Authority to help manage visitor pressures and make national parks a more pleasant and safe place to live and visit. We will also continue to work to manage visitor pressures through visitor dispersal. A key objective in the Government’s Tourism Recovery Plan is for visitor spending to grow year on year in every nation and region of the UK, not only within but beyond the usual tourist ‘hotspots’ to smaller, lesser-known destinations, including the lesser-visited protected landscapes.”

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