Members of the public have the right to wild camp in Dartmoor National Park, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

In January a High Court judge ruled that a piece of legislation nearly 40 years old did not give people the right to pitch tents overnight on Dartmoor Commons without landowners’ permission.

Alexander and Diana Darwall brought the successful legal challenge against the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), claiming some campers cause problems to livestock and the environment.

On January 21 more than 3,000 people joined one of the UK’s largest ever countryside access protests on Dartmoor, demanding the right to wild camp.

Earlier this month, the DNPA asked appeal judges to overturn Sir Julian Flaux’s decision, arguing he had the wrong interpretation of a 1985 law over rights of access to Dartmoor Commons.

In a ruling today (Monday, July 31) Sir Geoffrey Vos, Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Newey granted the appeal, finding that the law “confers on members of the public the right to rest or sleep on the Dartmoor Commons, whether by day or night and whether in a tent or otherwise” as long as byelaws are followed.

Sir Julian had previously found that the meaning of the legislation was “clear and unambiguous” in that it conferred a “right to roam” which did not include “a right to wild camp without permission”.

His judgment was labelled a “huge step backward” by campaigners who claimed there was a “long-established precedent” of wild camping in the national park.

Following today's ruling Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, which intervened in the case, said in a statement: “This is an excellent outcome, we are relieved that the judges ruled unanimously and conclusively that open-air recreation includes backpack camping on the commons.

“Following this judgment, Dartmoor remains one of only a handful of places in England where there is a right to backpack camping without the landowner’s permission.

“We should like to see that right extended and we shall campaign with other organisations to achieve this.”

Dartmoor National Park Authority’s chief executive Kevin Bishop said the appeal ruling is “a re-affirmation of the right to backpack camp on Dartmoor and secures that right for today and future generations.”