Callow Bank (Parish of Hathersage) is now a bridleway. A public inquiry into the rights of way on it was held at the beginning of October. The bridleway decision came in within a matter of weeks. Such a quick decision is very unusual. It usually takes the best part of three months to get a rights of way public inquiry the decision. The reason for the quick turnaround is that, compared with most inquiries, this one was very straightforward.
All the historic evidence pointed clearly to the track being a bridleway and until the early 2000s there had been scarcely any use by motor bikes and none at all by 4x4s. Around 2007 the route was discovered by 4x4s. They started to use it in large numbers and trashed it. The landowners got fed up and in 2011 they blocked the route by locking a gate. The gate has remained locked ever since.
There was no byway open to all traffic (BOAT) claim on the route. This meant that the date when the rights of way on the track were called into question and for looking back to see if motor vehicles had established a right of way through 20 years use was not a BOAT claim (the usual situation in Derbyshire). It was the date when the gate was locked (ie 2011).
The locking of the gate and the impact of 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act meant an easy win for bridleway. Locking the gate put a stop to any chance of a right of way for motor vehicles based on landowner consent; the NERC Act meant that use of the track by motor vehicles could not count towards creating a right of way through 20 years use. This is because the Act put a stop to motor vehicle use claims extending beyond 2006.
Had there been a BOAT claim on the route, it could have been a different story. Most of the cases we deal with at public inquiry are not like Callow Bank. They concern routes with BOAT claims them which were made by the motor bike lobby in 1985 or 1985 in a deliberate attempt to escape the effects of the NERC Act. In these cases we are dealing with potentially valid 20-year use claims.
PDGLA worked with the Callow Bank landowners to gather and present the key evidence. We are very grateful to them for locking the gate and proving other evidence.