High Peak MP refutes "misunderstanding" surrounding trespass legislation as petition gains over 1,000 signatures

An online petition has been started by High Peak residents concerned about their right to roam.

Tuesday, 24th December 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 3:13 pm
Robert Largan MP describes himself as a 'keen fell walker' and is pictured here at the top of Mam Tor.

The petition urges Robert Largan, the new MP for High Peak, to ‘ensure trespass legislation does not interfere with our harmless enjoyment of the land’ with emphasis on the effect the legislation could have on the homeless community who ‘rely on tents in hidden places to survive’.

Alison Johnson, 51, from New Mills, said: “I started the petition because I saw in the Conservative manifesto this short paragraph that said ‘We will give the police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities. We will make intentional trespass a criminal offence, and we will also give councils greater powers within the planning system.’

“This does not affect the right to roam in terms of walking on open access land, using footpaths and bridleways.

Alison Johnson started the petition on Change.org.

“What it does, though, is criminalise making dens, or wild camping, where you leave no trace and experience sleeping out without the need for a formal campsite, carrying everything you need and camp away from people and civilisation.

“In the High Peak, there’s a joy in being able to climb a hill, sleep out, watch dawn breaking, and come back down again in time to catch the train to work or set off for school. Even if we don’t do it much, we know that it’s there, and the memories formed last a lifetime. The change proposed means that for something which gives quiet enjoyment of our outdoors, people risk a criminal record.”

The petition that highlights the start of the Mass Trespass on Kinder in 1932, at the time of writing, has 1,824 signatures with the number increasing rapidly.

The description with the petition online states: “We have homeless people in the High Peak who rely on tents in hidden places to survive, please don't add a criminal offence to their already difficult lives.”

However, High Peak MP Robert Largan told the Buxton Advertiser: "This petition appears to be based on a misunderstanding of the Conservative manifesto commitment to tackle unauthorised traveller sites. There are no plans to remove or reduce existing access rights for hikers. As a keen fell walker myself, I would be opposed to any moves to reduce access rights to our beautiful countryside.”