Countryside in UK Law
Alexander Darwall v Dartmoor National Park Authority
Right of access. Law of property act. Land without the consent of the landowner. National park. Wild camp“
The correct approach to statutory interpretation has recently been authoritatively stated by Lord Hodge DPSC in ; at  to  as summarised by Lord Stephens JSC at  of ; :
Where there is doubt as to the way in which to interpret the language used in what Buckley LJ in Leasehold Reform Act 1967), it is to be construed in favour of the party who is to be dispropriated: see p542. termed a “dispropriatory” Act (there the In Bennion at [27.6] pp 857–8, the principle is stated thus:
The third aspect of the context was the reports and debates which led to the 1949 Act. Two reports of committees under the chairmanship of Sir Arthur Hobhouse were described by the responsible minister Lewis Silkin MP as having had a “very great influence” on the proposed measures which became the 1949 Act and said the Government had “accepted them as to some 90 per cent”.
The second report was the Report of the Special Committee on Footpaths and Access to the Countryside of September 1947. This advocated conferring on the public a general right of access to open land, but Mr Morshead KC pointed out that nowhere does the report suggest that this right, if conferred, would include a right to camp. As he said, in the conclusion, the aspiration was expressed in terms of conferring on the public a right to
At that time in 1980 (and 1984), there were evidently some authorised camp and caravan sites, as well as unauthorised sites set up by certain landowners and it is clear from the submissions and evidence put forward by DNPA (or its predecessor) in promoting the 1980 Bill, that the mischief which it was seeking to address was, amongst other things, such unauthorised or unregulated sites and the pressure and harm they caused, which needed to be regulated and controlled.
The first Hobhouse Committee report also identified a number of recreational activities such as motoring and cycling (essentially not permitted on the Commons by virtue of byelaw 3) fishing and rock climbing (both of which do take place on Dartmoor but it is unclear whether they take place on the Commons). It is noticeable that the recreational activities identified in the report do not include camping, which the report contemplated would be regulated and even that a fee would be payable.
If necessary, I would have concluded that there would be sufficient interference with the claimants' property rights without compensation if DNPA's construction were correct, so that the statute should not construed in that way unless it clearly had that effect, which for the reasons I have given, it does not.
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