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Controversial pay-to-pitch "wild camping" scheme scrapped

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A controversial scheme to charge for wild camping in national parks has been scrapped after furious opposition from the outdoors community.

The plans by UK Wild Camp would have allowed campers to pay £20 to pitch at specific locations in the South Downs and Lake District national parks.

Organisers said pitches would have “no facilities, are normally off-limits to camping, and are remote enough to be wild, whilst close enough to civilisation to be accessible.”

It was claimed the move would open up the wild to more people but there was an angry reaction from the outdoor community who said the pay-to-pitch pilot scheme was against the spirit of wild camping.

Wild camping is allowed in most of Scotland and on Dartmoor in Devon but, although it is often tolerated on higher ground elsewhere in England and Wales, it is currently illegal without the landowner's consent.

The pilot scheme launched at the House of Commons last week was widely described as “legalising” wild camping. Half of the fee would go to the landowner owner, 25% to the national park and the rest to the private operators to run the service.

Announcing a “rethink” of the scheme, UK Wild Camping claimed they’d had 3,000 expressions of support but admitted they had “kicked over a hornet’s nest”.

In a statement on their website, the organisation said: “We believe there is a real demand for a service like ours, and we’d still love to launch a scheme that brings more people into the wild, without disrupting those that are there already.

The £20 fee (per pitch, not per person) was intended to incentivise landowners to participate. Part of what we were trying to establish in the pilot was the correct price, but wherever we ended up, half it would go to the owner of the land, 25% to the National Parks and the rest to run the platform.

“Set against that support, and as one of you put it, we seem to have inadvertently kicked over a hornet’s nest among the existing wild camping community.

“We’re wild campers too and thought the idea of campaigning to remove the current restrictions would be welcome. We also thought that running a booking scheme for entry-level wild campers, one that would provide them with the security and legitimacy that currently causes them concerns about camping wild, would be understood and welcome by the wider group. We now see this is not the case! 

“With this is mind, we are going to suspend our service and have a rethink about how we might revise it. We won’t describe any future version of our service as ‘wild camping’ because for many of you that specifically means free and unplanned camping. Nor are we likely to stray into a debate around relaxing the laws on wild camping, because we now understand this is a highly charged area.

“We’ll continue to respond to all who are in touch and, as we rethink our plans, we will be back in contact to consult about how this service might evolve in the future.”

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