New legislation on off-roading in sight

The work we have been doing over the last 18 months on the Deregulation Bill has paid off. We have not got the Bill amended to protect green lanes (we never expected to achieve this). But the tactic of repeatedly tabling an amendment calling for government action, and threatening to interfere with the smooth passage of the Bill by dividing the House if we did not get it, has worked. New legislation to protect green lanes is back on the political agenda.

The government has a) acknowledged that there is a problem, b) has accepted that something must be done about it, c) has agreed to set up a motor vehicles working group to advise it, and d) has said there will be full public consultation after the group has reported.

The group will be set up ‘on completion of the passage of the Bill’. We take this to mean early this year. We pressed for this, for the group to have a limited life (18 months has been agreed), to be free to produce majority and minority reports if necessary rather than having to reach a consensus, and to include representation from the National Parks, the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the National Trails.

The working group will have an independent Chair and a secretariat organised by Defra and Natural England, ‘will contain a balance of interests across all sectors’, ‘representatives of different types of users of rights of way’, will set its own terms of reference, and ‘will be expected to look at all the issues in the round and include assessments any economic and social benefits of the current use of unsealed roads as well as an assessment of costs and burdens’.

We have been working with the Green Lanes Protection Group (GLPG) on the Bill. PDGLA is a member of GLPG and we expect GLPG to be represented on the working group.

Bradley Lane: victory at last

After two public inquiries and a high court challenge to the decision (made twice) by the Planning Inspectorate that Bradley Lane, Pilsley is a bridleway, the battle to save this lane from off-roading is finally won. Mr Justice Collins has dismissed the legal challenge from the Trail Riders Fellowship. If you see 4x4s or motor bikes using the lane please email PC Andy Wordsworth at Bakewell Police Station . The two public inquiries were fought by PDGLA with support from Peak Horsepower and local residents.

Four years on – things to celebrate

PDGLA was set up four years ago this month. This is a roundup of successes so far.

The first thing we achieved was to persuade the Peak Park to change its stance on off-roading and to start using Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). PDNPA has now put in place TROs permanently banning vehicles from Long Causeway, The Roych, Chapel Gate and Leys Lane. In the process PDNPA withstood aggressive and in some cases highly personal campaigning from off-roading organisations. We supported each TRO, provided evidence and encouraged large numbers of people to take part in the TRO consultations. We congratulate PDNPA for its efforts and for standing its ground. We look forward to further Peak Park TROs wherever they are necessary.

We have researched, and continue to research, the historic rights of way on lanes claimed as BOATs in the Peak District. Wherever there are no historic vehicle rights we work with local residents, walkers and horse riders to see if a BOAT claim based on modern use by motor vehicles can be opposed. We fight BOAT claims wherever there is a realistic chance of defeating them at a public inquiry. There are usually two or three inquiries each year.

So far we have taken part in six inquiries, between them covering eight lanes. We lost on Jacob’s Ladder (Stoney Middleton) and on Mill Lane ( Eyam) both of which are now BOATs. But we won on Bradley Lane (Pilsley and Hassop), twice*, and on Black Harry Lane (Stoney Middleton and Grt Longstone). The Inquiry Inspector decided that both are bridleways. We succeeded in making Pretty Wood (Eyam) a dead end for 4x4s and motor bikes and we took part in the inquiry which decided that Green Lane (Bonsall and Ibble) is a bridleway. We also helped secure Blackberry Lane (Grindlow and Foolow) as a restricted byway.
Working nationally with other organisations we have got off-roading back onto the political agenda. The government is now committed to full public consultation on the use of green lanes by motor vehicles and a change in the law is has become a real prospect.
The Derbyshire Police, when we first got going, were not taking any effective action against illegal off-roading (ie off-roading on footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways). The are now committed to enforcing the Peak Park TROs and say they will prosecute offenders.
We have raised the profile of off-roading as an issue nationally and have taken part in three BBC programmes. The latest was an item on Radio 4′s You and Yours earlier this month.
Derbyshire County Council remains a problem. It is at least researching and deciding what public rights of way exist on green lanes which are neither footpath or bridleway (only two highway authorities are bothering to do this). This gives us the chance of opposing and defeating some BOAT claims. But they still flatly refuse to use their own TRO powers to stop motor vehicles using any green lane in Derbyshire, even where it is clear that there is need for one. They say they are afraid of legal challenges from the off-roading organisations.
We are now engaging with Staffordshire CC as well as with Derbyshire. This highway authority wrongly believed that all unclassified highways which are unsealed (ie no tarmac) have motor vehicle rights.

Pretty Wood now a dead end for vehicles

Following another public inquiry held this autumn, Pretty Wood in Eyam is now a dead end for motor vehicles. This is because the Inquiry decided that the track which continued from Pretty Wood in the Stoke direction is a Restricted Byway (no motor vehicles allowed) and that other track which joins Pretty Wood is a Footpath.

Black Harry Lane vicotry

Black Harry Lane, Longstone Edge area, has been confirmed as a bridleway following a recent public inquiry into the BOAT claim on the lane. PDGLA convinced the Inquiry Inspector a) that the route is historically a bridleway and b) that its use by off-road vehicles during the critical 20 years prior to the BOAT claim was both insufficient to establish a right of way for vehicles and had been possible only by destroying walls and winching out boulders put on the lane by landowners to try and prevent vehicle use.

Motor vehicles banned from Leys Lane

The Peak Park decided on 7 November to use a Traffic Regulation Order to permanently exclude all motor vehicles from Leys Lane in Great Longstone. It was the campaign to save this lane from off-roading which paved the way for the formation of PDGLA. The campaign was also featured in the BBC documentary about off-roading in the National Park. Four Lanes have now been protected by PDNPA (the Roych, Long Causeway, Chapel Gate and now Leys Lane). We will continue to press PDNPA to use Traffic Regulation Orders wherever they are necessary to restore amenity and access for non-vehicle users or to protect the natural beauty of the National Park.

House of Lords

There was a debate in the House of Lords on motor vehicle use of green lanes on 28 October. The debate was on an amendment to the Deregulation Bill which if accepted will require the Secretary of State for the Environment to report to Parliament within a year of the passage of the Bill on whether the law should continue to permit the use of unsealed highways by motor vehicles. You can read the full text of the debate on page 9 of Hansard.

Wales has problems too

There are problems with motor vehicle use of green lanes in Wales as well as in England. The area around Llangollen is badly affected and a group there has been campaigning against off-roading for some time. Problems include destroyed surfaces, damage to adjacent moorland, noise pollution, anti-social behaviour and danger to non-vehicle users. You can find out more in our October newsletter.

Please sign green lanes petition

An online petition has been launched by a supporter calling on government to change the law so as to stop motor vehicles using green lanes. Please sign it and please forward it to friends and contacts.

Long Causeway finally closed to motor vehicles

The long awaited Peak Park Traffic Regulation Order excluding all types of motor vehicle from Long Causeway is now in place. It came in on 18 September. The causeway has also been fully repaired and is once again a wonderful route for walkers and horse riders. It can also be used by cyclists and horse-drawn carriages. But if you see any 4x4s or motor bikes please report them to the Police by calling 101. Congratulations to the Peak Park for its determination to protect this superb route.