THE YORKSHIRE DALES GREEN LANES ALLIANCE

Campaigning to free green lanes from recreational vehicles.

Where the tarmac stops, vehicles should stop.

YDGLA, PO Box 159, Otley, LS21 9BT

Email: ydgla@europe.com


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Latest News

A new green lane group is founded to tackle problems on the North York Moors

Posted 26 November 2016

We are pleased to announce the formation of the North York Moors Green Lanes Alliance. YDGLA's own territory is restricted to the Dales National Park and the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but we have long been aware that there are severe problems on the North York Moors. A local group there, in which horse-riders are strongly represented, has gone into action to persuade NYCC and the North York Moors National Park Authority that many green lanes in their charge are damaged to such an extent that they are unusable by walkers, cyclists and equestrians. The new group, NYMGLA, may be contacted at nymgla@btinternet.com

 

The Dales National Park expands its borders

Posted 26 November 2016

The expansion of the national park westward, right up to the M6, increases the number of green lanes that the park authority will have to look after. Notably, Lady Anne's Highway, which formerly exited the park at Hell Gill Bridge, above Mallerstang, is now within the park for its whole length. A TRO is in place on the original section. Maybe a TRO needs to be put in place to protect the new, northern section.

 

The 'Stakeholder Working Group' on vehicles in the countryside, set up by the government.

Posted 25 November 2016

In the dying days of the Coalition, a government minister acknowledged that the damage and general nuisance inflicted by recreational vehicles on green lanes is a problem that needs a solution. He undertook to set up a 'stakeholder working group', composed of representatives of all groups with an interest in green lanes. The purpose of the group would be to make recommendations to government about changes in the law thought to be necessary. However, this undertaking has been watered down so much that it is scarcely an undertaking at all. All that was finally offered by the incoming, current government was a one-off, one-day forum at which it was hoped that a consensus would emerge on the best way to manage green lanes. This hope, we think, was disingenuous. There was not the slightest chance that a one-day meeting would produce a consensus: the views of the vehicle users, and the views of those who wish to see non-essential vehicles prohibited from green lanes are far too far apart for a swift accommodation to be made.

The forum met on November 17, under the auspices of DEFRA and English Nature. In her introductory remarks, the chairwoman made it clear that Brexit will command so much of Parliament's time for the foreseeable future that it will be extremely difficult for non-Brexit legislation to be considered. Furthermore, she said, DEFRA will not consider revising the advice it gives to Highway Authorities and National Park Authorities on the management of green lanes. Lastly, she told the forum that official support for its deliberations would cease. From now on, anything the Forum chose to do, it would have to do under its own steam. Altogether, not a very encouraging introduction. But the members of the Forum ploughed on, and set up sub-groups to consider various aspects of the problem - the use of traffic regulation orders, or the value, if any, of schemes for voluntary restraint by vehicle users, for example. Whether the Forum will come up with anything useful, and whether anybody will take any notice, is unclear, but we will remain engaged with it.

Meanwhile, we will continue to make our way along the avenues that remain open to us. This means trying to persuade North Yorkshire County Council, and, to a lesser extent, the Dales National Park Authority, to impose traffic regulation orders on green lanes where the damage and nuisance inflicted by 4x4s and motorbikes is at its worst. Deadman's Hill, which runs through YDGLA like a watermark, is the obvious case in point. It may be the case, although we cannot be confident, that NYCC if finally taking the problem seriously, and getting a grip on it.

 

Good news concerning Deadman's Hill and Blubberhouses Moor

Posted 13 April 2016

The state of the track going over Deadman's Hill from Scar House, in Nidderdale, to Arkleside, in Coverdale, has, for years, been steadily deteriorating. The summit section is now an impassable morass (see photo).

At last, North Yorkshire County Council, having seen that its repairs, costing £20,000, are completely incapable of withstanding the impact of recreational 4x4s and motorbikes, has imposed an 18-month traffic regulation order, starting on 4 April 2016. Unlike previous TROs, which were imposed in order to make repairs, the purpose of the new TRO is 'to protect the public from danger and to protect the road from serious damage'. This means that vehicle users cannot demand that repairs are made and the route re-opened. There is now a chance that the temporary TRO will be followed, after public consultation, with a permanent TRO. If this comes about, this superb track in remote upper Nidderdale will return to the tranquil state it was in before 4x4 and motorbike users devastated it. It will take a long time for the fabric of the track to recover, but a valuable start has been made.

Further good news is the forthcoming renewal of the permanent TRO on the network of tracks that criss-cross Blubberhouses Moor. (The moor is to the south of the A59 Harrogate-Skipton Road, between Blubberhouses church and Langbar,) Considering how close this moor is to the Leeds/Bradford connurbation it is capable of achieving a remarkable sense of peace and tranquillity. It also has extensive Sites of Special Scientific Interest. However, large tracts of the moor, along with the peace and quiet, were wrecked by 4x4s and motorbikes. The imposition of the TRO has led to a spontaneous, natural regeneration of some of the damaged sections, although English Nature say that some sections are irreversibly ruined. Recreational vehicle user groups supported the imposition of the first TRO. We congratulate them, and hope that their support will continue as the TRO is renewed.

 

New MP accepts honorary membership of YDGLA

Posted 25 September 2015

When YDGLA was founded, back in 2002, we invited all three MPs whose constituencies include parts of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to become honorary members of YDGLA. All accepted. Since then, two of the three have retired from Parliament. We are very pleased to say that their successors have followed on, accepting honorary membership. The latest is Rishi Sunak MP, who succeeded William Hague in the Richmond constituency. Tim Farron MP and Julian Smith MP complete the trio. We have always known that if YDGLA failed to express the views of people in the Dales, we would be sidelined. The honorary membership of all three MPs fortifies our view that we are speaking for the great majority of residents of, and visitors to the Dales. Green lanes are wonderful, distinctive features of the landscape, and people want them to be freed from the blight of 4x4s and motorbikes.

 

Deadman’s Hill and the effect of ‘voluntary restraint’ by vehicle users

Posted 19 April 2015

The story so far. Deadman’s Hill, the name given to the track that runs from Arkleside in Coverdale to Middlesmoor in Nidderdale has, for many years, been pretty much ruined by 4x4s and motorbikes. In August 2010 North Yorkshire County Council, recognising that the stretch from Lodge up to the watershed between and Coverdale was more or less impassable, imposed a temporary TRO (see glossary) for 18 months. The idea was to make repairs and then re-open it. No repairs were made during this period of closure. The TRO was extended for a further 18 months, during which time repairs were made to the actual right of way, and attempts were made to prevent vehicle users from illegally going off-piste and spreading their impact even wider. Precise figures are hard to come by, but the cost of the repairs was in the region of £20,000. The track was re-opened in August 2013.

 

Now read on. As we predicted, the renewed onslaught of vehicles steadily demolished the repairs. Even members of the motorcyclists’ association, the TRF (see glossary) recognised that the track was deteriorating. Under the auspices of the vehicle users’ umbrella group, LARA, a code of ‘voluntary restraint’ was devised and promulgated. A sequence of un-ignorable signs along the track entreats vehicle users to drive and ride only in a north-to-south direction, thus ensuring that the morass near the summit will be tackled going downhill, thereby, it is hoped, reducing the vehicles’ impact. The impact of vehicles lower down the hill, no matter in which direction they are travelling, has led to deep rutting. (See photo)

This section of the track was repaired and levelled 18 months ago

On Saturday 18 April, YDGLA members made a visit. In places, the state of the track is worse than before the repairs were attempted. Near the summit, the route is impassable for cyclists and equestrians, and negotiable only with difficulty by pedestrians. (See photo)

This section of the track, too, was repaired 18 months ago. The photo shows the
depth to which the track has been cut by years of 4x4 and motorbike use.

 

The familiar noise of motorbikes, echoing across the bare fells, heralded the arrival of a convoy of eleven motorbikes, defying LARA’s north-south entreaties by riding, uphill, from south to north. When they reached the impassable morass, they took one look at it, and veered off-piste, riding along the bank that borders it, and re-joining the right of way at the summit. So much for voluntary restraint. (See photo)

The right of way runs at the bottom of the picture

 

North Yorkshire County Council has thrown £20,000 down the drain. As we, along with local residents, landowners, and non-motorised users, have long argued, the only effective solution is a permanent TRO, prohibiting recreational vehicles. The green lane will then, eventually, naturally recuperate, and recover its former tranquil beauty.

 

Good news and bad news from the Supreme Court

Posted 24 March 2015

On 18 March 2015 the Supreme Court handed down judgment on two important issues. First the bad news. The court was asked to give a final ruling on the ‘Dorset Case’. (See our posting below, dated 20 July 2013.) Maps submitted in support of applications for Byways Open to all Traffic (BOATs: see glossary) have to be at the scale of 1:25,000. The Supreme Court’s job was to rule whether a computer-enlargement of a map drawn to a scale of 1:50,000 may count as a map drawn to a scale of 1:25,000. The Court, by a majority of 3 judges to 2, ruled that it could. The effect of this ruling is that a small number of BOAT applications in Dorset will have to be processed to a conclusion, thereby giving 4x4 and motorbike users more green lanes for their pastime. Fortunately for us in the Dales, there are no pending BOAT applications that will be activated by this ruling.

Now for the good news. The Trail Riders’ Fellowship (TRF: the motor cyclists’ organisation) had hoped to use their challenge to the map-scale rule as a bridgehead to the overturning of the ‘Winchester Judgement’. This judgment, affecting around 880 BOAT applications, means that the evidence upon which the applications rely has to accompany the applications when they are submitted. The TRF has always argued that a simple list of the supporting evidence, not the evidence itself, satisfies the regulations. They were, naturally enough, reluctant to see nearly a thousand BOAT applications go down the tubes. The Winchester Judgment was not formally part of the TRF’s challenge in the Supreme Court to the map-scale question, but 3 of the judges delivered their view that Winchester was sound.

 

Win some, lose some.. The BOAT applications whose maps now pass muster are a distinct loss to those who want quiet, undamaged, vehicle-free green lanes in Dorset.But the hundreds of applications that were ruled as non-compliant by Winchester, and whose non-compliance has been confirmed by the highest court in the land, are a big win.

 

Promising developments in Parliament

Posted 9 February 2015

The Green Lanes Protection Group, of which YDGLA is a member, encouraged members of the House of Lords who are concerned about the damage and nuisance caused by recreational vehicles on green lanes to submit an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. (See the posting below, 17 May 2014) As we expected, the amendment, which sought to have all unsealed green lanes classified, en bloc, as Restricted Byways, was ruled out by the government. We knew that we were being wildly ambitious, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. But despite the demise of our amendment, we have indeed gained, and gained substantially: the amendment had the salutary effect of encouraging the government to commit itself to the setting-up, as soon as the Deregulation Bill becomes law, of a ‘Stakeholder Working Group’, charged with making recommendations, within 18 months, on all questions relating to motor vehicles on green lanes. The government’s commitment came in a Lords debate on 3 February, and thus gave us the best news we’ve had since the passing of NERC. The membership and precise terms of reference of the group are yet to emerge, but it is hard to imagine that a group on which representatives of all bodies that have an interest in green lanes - farmers, land-owners, walkers, cyclists, parish councillors, naturalists, national parks - will bring much comfort to the motorbike and 4x4 brigades.  Obviously, recreational vehicle users need to be represented by LARA, or the TRF presumably - on the Stakeholder Group, but they will neither be able to call the shots, nor to exercise a veto over recommendations that don’t suit them.  The group will not be obliged to deliver a consensus: majority and minority reports will be acceptable.

 

One large group of green lanes 3,000 miles of them whose fate, at present, is dire, will benefit from the deliberations of the Stakeholder Group.  These are ‘unclassified county roads’ (UCRs) (See glossary).  If nothing is done soon, the arrival in 2026 of the cut-off date for the entry of further rights of way on to the Definitive Map, will send UCRs into a limbo whose sole beneficiaries will be recreational motorists.  But when the new Stakeholder Working Group gets down to work, we hope that it will come up with the recommendation that UCRs should be classified as restricted byways, and entered on the Definitive Map as such.

 

When the Stakeholder Group delivers its recommendations, a public consultation will be mounted.  We will then see whether the public wants motorbikes and 4x4s to have access to green lanes, or if it wants to preserve green lanes for non-motorised recreational use, along with motorised use by farmers and other essential users.

 

With the aid of powerful binoculars, the promised land of traffic-free green lanes may just about be in sight.

 

We are not alone

Posted 13 January 2015

pdgla.org.uk , supplies the background.   And recently, a group called ‘Save Our Paths’ has been set up in North Wales, to campaign for restrictions to be imposed on local green lanes.  The group has launched an online petition, via 38 Degrees, which can be found at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-our-paths/  The petition is local to North Wales, but it has wider applicability: all those trying to save green lanes from the depredations of 4x4s and motorbikes will want to sign.

 

Deregulation Bill

Posted 17 May 2014

The government has recognised that something has to be done about the status of unsealed unclassified county roads (UUCRs), but rather than accept the amendment that was put forward in the Commons, seeking to classify UUCRs as Restricted Byways and thereby to close them permanently to recreational motors it has proposed the setting up of a ‘stakeholder working group’ to examine the problem.  Such a group would be composed of all those who have an interest in green lanes, including representatives of both pro- and anti-vehicle groups.  The group would be charged with the job of coming up with a consensus on the fundamental question of whether the 3,000 odd miles of UUCRs should be closed to, or be open to recreational motorists.  This is rather like charging the Pope and Richard Dawkins to produce a consensus on the question of whether or not there is a god.  The government, in other words, is ducking the issue and fending it off, for years, by the setting up of a group that, by the very nature of the issue, will end in stalemate.

 

However, the amendment designed to classify all UUCRs as Restricted Byways is by no means dead.  It will make its reappearance when the Lords debates the Deregulation Bill, and there’s a fair chance that their Lordships will support it.  Whether the Government will then respond to the way the wind is blowing and incorporate the amendment into the final version of the bill remains to be seen.

 

The ‘Deregulation’ Bill: an opportunity for Parliament to free virtually all green lanes from recreational motor vehicles, permanently.

Posted 30 December 2013

When Parliament issued a call for evidence on aspects of the forthcoming ‘Deregulation’ bill,  members of the public, and organisations (including YDGLA) responded by making the case for the re-classification of green lanes. Green lanes, we argued, should be re-classified, by law, as restricted byways.  This would mean that they will remain open to pedestrians, pedal cyclists, horse-riders, carriage drivers, and essential motor vehicle users, but would be freed from the blight of those who ride motorbikes or drive 4x4s, for pleasure, along green lanes.   In essence, our recommendation is this:

  • All unsealed byways open to all traffic (BOATs see glossary), and all unsealed, unclassified county roads (UCRs see glossary) recorded on highway authorities’ List of Streets, and not part of what DEFRA calls ‘the ordinary road network’, should be re-classified, with very limited exceptions, as restricted byways.  (An ‘unsealed’ way is one whose surface, or most of whose surface, is not sealed with a waterproof coating, such as tarmac or concrete.)

The case was persuasively argued by a colleague from the Peak District Green Lanes Alliance before the committee set up by Parliament to scrutinize the new bill.  The committee issued its report on 19 December.  The report’s conclusion is that our proposal is somewhat beyond the remit of the bill.  We half-expected this, for we knew that we were reaching for the stars: but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  However, the report by no means rubbishes our proposal.  On the contrary, the committee say that the volume of responses to the call for evidence makes plain the public’s concern about the damage and nuisance inflicted by recreational motors on green lanes.  The report recommends Parliament to turn its attention to the problem, if not in the Deregulation Bill, then in further legislation.

 

We still believe that our proposal can be incorporated into the forthcoming bill, and hope that the necessary clauses will there when the Deregulation Bill is published.  If such clauses are not in the bill when it is published, we will continue to argue that unsealed BOATs and UCRs should be reclassified as restricted byways, and will press for amendments as the bill makes its way through Parliament.

 

We have caught a glimpse of the possibility of an end to recreational green lane motoring.  Whether the eventual Deregulation Act will carry us into the promised land remains to be seen.  But there are plenty of signs of public and parliamentary support for our proposals, and we must continue to press for measures that will finally put an end to the destructive and anti-social practice of taking 4x4s and motorbikes, for pleasure, miles away from the tarmac, into peaceful and tranquil countryside.

 

The Parliamentary committee’s report can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201314/jtselect/jtdraftdereg/101/101.pdf. Our proposals are considered in paragraphs 147-154.

 

Developments in the ‘Dorset Case’ (see the posting for 3 October 2012, below)

Posted 20 July 2013

Our 3 October posting was prematurely optimistic.  We reported that the High Court had ruled that maps of claimed routes have to be drawn at the prescribed scale (1:25,000).  Maps that are computer-enlargements of maps drawn at a smaller scale must be rejected by authorities determining applications.  However, vehicle users successfully appealed against this ruling.   A new judgment has been handed down.  It turns on what is meant by the word ‘drawn’, in such phrases as ‘a map drawn to the prescribed scale.’  If this new judgment stands, it means that if you press the key on your computer that blows up an image of a 1:50,000 map to 1:25,000, you (or maybe the computer) are ‘drawing’ the map to the prescribed scale. Whether this latest legal judgment will stand is unclear.  There is a yet higher court to which an appeal may be made, but it is not known whether such an appeal will be lodged.  As we said in our 3 October posting, the fate of numbers of green lanes (although none, we are relieved to report, in the Yorkshire Dales), will be determined by the ultimate legal ruling on whether a computer-enlargement of a small-scale map is equivalent to a map originally produced at a larger scale.

 

Ten traffic regulation orders on green lanes in the Dales National Park renewed

Posted 20 July 2013

Five years ago, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority succeeded in imposing traffic regulation orders (TROs) on ten of the most sensitive and beautiful green lanes in the Park*.  Although the orders were permanent, the Authority has a policy of reviewing them after five years.  The first five years are up.  The condition of the surface of all ten lanes is much improved transformed in some cases but it is important to recognize that the orders were not made on the grounds of surface-damage.  The orders were made in order to protect the special qualities of the national park.  This means that anyone arguing that the orders, or some of them, should be discontinued or modified would have to show that the park’s special qualities no longer need the protection that has been provided by the TROs.  Not surprisingly, no such arguments were produced.  The Authority, at its June meeting, renewed all ten orders.  The ten green lanes are safe for a further 5 years.

 

* Barth Bridge,  Cam High Road, Carlton to Middleham High Moor, Foxup Road, Gorbeck Road, The Highway, Horsehead Pass, Ling Gill, Long Lane (Clapham to Selside), Mastiles Lane.

 

Traffic Regulation Order on Deadman’s Hill about to be discontinued

Posted 20 July 2013

See postings below, 19 August 2010, and 14 April 2012.)  Earlier this year, North Yorkshire County Council, having imposed a temporary TRO on the most badly-damaged section of the route, spent approximately £20,000 on repairs.   Drainage ditches have been dug and the huge potholes have been filled in. If vehicles could be kept off the route permanently, first, the track would green over fairly quickly: the track would no longer be the eyesore that has been since it became popular with vehicle users.  Secondly, the wonderful peace and tranquillity that has reigned over this remote spot during the duration of the TRO would continue, undisturbed.  But North Yorkshire County Council are to lift the TRO, probably in August this year.  Peace and tranquillity will be the first casualties when 4x4s and motorbikes return.  It remains to be seen whether the costly repairs will be capable of withstanding the battering that they will suffer when vehicle use re-attains its former popularity.   The lesson here is that if TROs are to be really effective, they must be imposed not because the green lane in question is out of repair (and Deadman’s Hill certainly was out of repair), but because the lane runs through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and because the high quality of that landscape is fatally compromised by the passage of motor vehicles.  The Dales National Park Authority’s TRO programme has succeeded (see posting above, 20 July 2013) because the Authority keyed its justification for the prohibition on motor vehicles not to the temporary state of the tracks’ surfaces, but to the powerful assertion of the essential incompatibility of the special qualities of the Park, and the presence of 4x4s and motorbikes on the green lanes that thread through it.  North Yorkshire County Council, we contend, needs systematically to apply the template painstakingly hammered out by its neighbour, the Dales National Park Authority

 

Roundup of recent legal cases

Posted 20 Jan 2013

A number of developments in the legal world, away from the Yorkshire Dales, will have implications for our own green lanes.

The List of Streets. The Appeal Court has issued a complicated judgement about the List of Streets.  The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC), which has done so much to limit the expansion of the network of green lanes open to recreational motors, did not deal with those tracks known as ‘unsealed, unclassified county roads’ - UUCRS.  NERC says that any route that (a) has proven rights for motor vehicles, (b) is not on the Definitive Map, and (c) is entered on the Highway Authority’s List of Streets Maintainable at Public Expense, continues to bear motor vehicular rights.  This gap in NERC’s provisions leaves a large network of green lanes entirely unprotected from the damage and nuisance caused by recreational 4x4s and motorbikes.   All is not lost, though.  The question ‘What constitutes a valid List of Streets?’ arises.  Highway authorities have customarily compiled a variety of often overlapping, and sometimes contradictory and incomplete Lists.  The NERC Act brought these hitherto not very important informal methods of public record-keeping into sharp focus.  If NERC preserves motor vehicle rights on routes that are on the List of Streets, what happens - and this is the key point - if the Authority did not have a valid List of Streets on which those routes were entered?  A case in Wiltshire was tested in the Appeal Court. The Court’s ruling is lengthy and complicated,          and its full impact is yet to be felt, but it will be tested, up and down the country, whenever there is the chance that an authority’s List of Streets can be shown to have been defective, and therefore cannot be relied on as a mechanism for preserving motor vehicular rights on UUCRS.

(http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2012/334.html)

 

Experimental Traffic Regulation Order in the Peak District.  The motorcyclists’ lobby group, the Trail Riders’ Fellowship (TRF) has successfully challenged, in the High Court, an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) imposed on a green lane (Chapel Gate) by the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA). ( http://cornerstonebarristers.com/case/trail-riders-fellowship-v-peak-district-national-park-authority-2012-ewhc-3359-admin/ )  The judge found that the Authority had not adequately set out the precise nature and purposes of the experiment that was to be conducted.  This was an own-goal by the Authority.  Some years ago, North Yorkshire County Council, in collaboration with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, successfully imposed a number of experimental traffic regulation orders.  Its procedures could easily have been replicated by its colleagues in the Peaks.  The lesson here is that the motoring lobby has sharpened up its act: it will scrutinise every dot and comma of every regulation that seeks to limit its activities, and will head for the High Court whenever it sees a chance.  The courts have found no insuperable legal obstacles, in principle, to the imposition of various sorts of traffic regulation orders, but they have found defects in a few of the orders that the TRF has challenged.  The result is that Authorities have to pay huge legal costs, and then go away and re-make the orders, taking account of the judge’s strictures.  The TRF thereby wins brief skirmishes in a war that they are steadily losing. If Authorities made their orders properly in the first place, time and money would be saved.

 

PDNPA carried out comprehensive monitoring on Chapel Gate before and during the ETRO. The results of the monitoring show that:

 

  • Most recreational users complied with the ETRO, although the police issued 5 notices to users who did not.  Motorbike use dropped by 74%.

 

  • Displacement (of all users) onto adjacent land was reduced

 

  • The disturbed vegetation and eroded peat has recovered well

 

  • Most of the users interviewed do not support motor vehicular use of the route

 

  • the prohibition of vehicles along the full length of the route and the repairs to the lower part of the route have had an overall beneficial impact on the natural beauty and amenity of the area

 

Sounds familiar?

 

http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/295833/MR1210-ChapelGate.pdf  

 

Challenge to the fundamentals of NERC. Lastly, as the motoring lobby desperately tries to pick holes in the fabric of the NERC Act, more and more obscure tactics are being tried.  In the Dales, and recently in Northumberland, it was argued by the TRF that the meaning of rights of way designations must be radically reinterpreted.  For example, the designation ‘bridleway’, and its representation on maps, has customarily been interpreted as signifying rights for horses, bicycles and pedestrians.  But the TRF are arguing that the pedestrian rights and the horse/bicycle rights remain as distinct, separate rights: the higher, horse/bicycle right does not subsume the lower, pedestrian right.  What is the point of this arcane argument?  If successful, it would undermine one of the central propositions of NERC and our understanding of rights of way in general.  NERC says that if the Definitive Map shows a green lane to be a bridleway, or a footpath, or a restricted byway, that’s how it stays: historic vehicular rights, if there were any, are extinguished.  End of story.  But if, following the TRF’s tortuous argument, it could be shown that rights of way for various classes of users (eg motor vehicles, horses, pedestrians) are not subsumed under the official designation of any particular route, but persist as distinct, separate rights like the differently coloured and insulated strands within a single electric cable then wherever it can be shown that historic rights for motors (like a deeply-buried and forgotten strand of single cable) lie under a bridleway or footpath, those rights for motors are not extinguished.   To succeed, this argument depends on interpreting a key clause in NERC, (67 (1) (b)), to mean exactly the opposite of what it plainly says, and what Parliament intended.  Not surprisingly, the TRF’s interpretation of NERC and of rights of way designations did not prevail in the inquiry into the status of Cam High Road in the Dales, but its inventor tried it out again in Northumberland.  The inspector rejected it there too.  Whether the TRF’s preposterous interpretation of rights of way will be trundled out at further public inquiries remains to be seen.

 

Excellent news from the High Court: judgment on ‘The Dorset Case’

Posted 3 October 2012

On 2nd October, the High Court handed down a welcome judgment on a case that takes us into the remotest, most arcane reaches of highway law, but which is of great significance in the battle to prohibit 4x4s and motorbikes from green lanes.  In brief, in order to make a successful application for a new Byway Open to All Traffic, the law requires applicants to accompany each application with a map of the route, drawn to a scale of 1:25,000 (the scale used in Ordnance Survey ‘Explorer’ maps). Dorset County Council had a pile of applications that, despite NERC, had to be processed.  They contended that the maps accompanying the applications had not been drawn to the required scale.  Instead, it appeared that they had been derived from OS 1:50,000 ‘Landranger’ maps (via an Anquet computer programme), and then blown up to 1:25,000 on a computer. Dorset therefore rejected 5 of the applications as being non-compliant with the legal regulations.  The motorcyclists’ group, The Trailriders’ Fellowship (TRF), challenged Dorset’s ruling in the High Court. Dorset’s rejection of the applications was supported in court by the brilliant Green Lanes Protection Group (of which YDGLA is a member).  The judge’s task was to decide whether a small-scale map blown up to 1:25,000 counts as a map that was originally prepared at 1:25,000.  He decided that it did not, and that Dorset was right to reject the 5 applications.  The TRF, as might be expected, are not happy with this judgment, notably because it affects not only the 5 Dorset applications considered by the High Court, but because a further 6 Dorset applications, and many more awaiting determination up and down the country are all affected by the judgment.  The TRF will probably apply to the Supreme Court in order to have the Dorset Judgment overturned and to re-open the ‘Winchester’ case (see ‘Glossary’ page on this website), which has saved hundreds of green lanes from having to be acknowledged as motor routes, by requiring authorities to reject BOAT applications that do not conform exactly with the regulations prescribed in law, and from which the Dorset case derives.

 

There will be more to come on this issue as vehicle user groups fight, ever more desperately, ever more implausibly, to defend their desire to motor along green lanes, but for the moment, we can rejoice that Dorset’s 5 green lanes - and potentially many more elsewhere - will be safe from the damage and nuisance inflicted by 4x4s and motorbikes.  The full Dorset judgment may be read at:

 

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/2634.html&query=Tilbury&method=boolean

 

Promising developments in the Peak District National Park

Posted 28 September 2012

YDGLA’s territory is the Yorkshire Dales, but we take a keen interest in developments in other parts of the country especially in national parks. The Peak District National Park is suffering from an increasing level of motorbike and 4x4 use of its green lanes perhaps, in part, due to the displacement effect of the welcome restrictions that have been imposed in the Dales. The Peak District National Park Authority has just launched public consultations on proposals to close two green lanes to recreational vehicles.  The green lanes in question are the Roych (part of the Pennine Bridleway near Chinley and Rushup Edge), and Long Causeway (Hathersage to Redmires).  When similar consultations were carried out in the Dales, the public’s support for full-time traffic regulation orders was overwhelming.  But the motoring lobby has learned its lesson.  This time it is campaigning feverishly against the proposals to impose TROs, hoping to mobilise support sufficient to outweigh the responses in favour of the proposals. Motoring organisations are encouraging every member to respond. The Peak District Green Lanes Alliance (pdgla.org.uk) - modelled on YDGLA, and making great headway - is encouraging everybody who wants to see the two green lanes freed from the blight of motorbikes and 4x4s to make their views known by responding positively to the consultations.  YDGLA members and supporters will no doubt want to make their own views known.  Each of the two lanes is subject to its own consultation. The consultation documents are at http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/looking-after/consultations and the consultation ends on 2 November 2012.  People can respond directly simply by sending two emails one to long.causeway@peakdistrict.gov.uk and one to roych@peakdistrict.gov.uk

The green lanes of the Yorkshire Dales are by no means all closed to vehicles, but a valuable and effective start has been made by the Park Authority. The Dales green lanes are now much more agreeable than they were when motorbike and 4x4 use was unrestricted.  The Dales programme of TROs started with a public consultation.  YDGLA hopes that the Peak Authority’s own, similar consultation will have an equivalent effect. The Authority’s proposals to impose TROS must be given massive public support.

 

Motorcyclist fined for illegally riding on a bridleway in Coverdale

Posted 22 August 2012

A posting on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority website, dated 21 August 2012, gives an account of a police officer’s encounter with a group of about eight motorcyclists who were attempting to ride, illegally, on the bridleway that runs from Horsehouse up on to Fleensop Moor, alongside High Gill.  Where the track leaves the tarmacadamed road, there are two signs plainly saying that there is no right of way for motor vehicles on the track, but the group of motorcyclists defied them and went through the gate. The officer attempted to apprehend the group, but they sped off.  He caught one member, though, and issued an on-the-spot fine of £30.  The rider came from Richmond.  The officer speculates that the group is likely to be local.

 

Trying to stop eight motorcyclists who openly defy both the law and a police officer is no easy matter, but it is encouraging to see that the officer’s determined actions secured at least one fine.  The route that the motorcyclists were attempting to use was once very popular with the motorcycle and 4x4 brigade.  The NERC Act put a decisive stop to attempts to have the bridleway acknowledged as a motor route, but for those who openly break the law, only the threat and now the reality of police prosecution will be effective. 

 

http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/pressoffice/press-latestnews/news/biker-fined-for-illegally-using-national-park-bridleway

 

Prosecution of illegal motorcycle use on Horton in Ribblesdale bridleway

Posted 9 July 2012

The Craven Herald of 14 June 2012, two motorcyclists, riding along Harber Scar Lane on 17 October last year, were challenged by a National Park ranger, and informed that they were illegally using a bridleway.  They carried on regardless.  In court, one of the motorcyclists admitted both to driving on a bridleway, and to failing to identify the second rider.  According to the Herald, The defendant was convicted, fined £80, plus £250 for the failure to identify the second rider, an additional £45 costs, and a £15 victim’s surcharge.  His driving licence was endorsed with 6 penalty points.

Let us hope that the message gets around.  Taking a vehicle on to a green lane from which motors are prohibited can end up costing the vehicle user nearly £400 and half a dozen penalty points.

 

Deadman’s Hill Traffic Regulation Order extended

Posted 14 April 2012

fellsides at the head of Nidderdale.  (See posting below, dated 19 August 2010.)  The order expired on 15 February 2012, but was immediately extended by a similar order which will protect the track until 15 August 2013.  The documentation accompanying the order includes an aspiration to make repairs to the track, with a view, perhaps, to the re-opening of Deadman’s Hill to vehicles once again. Where the money for the necessary and very expensive repairs will come from is not made clear.  Meanwhile, North Yorkshire County Council is conducting a review of its county-wide policy on the management of its Unsealed Unclassified County Roads of which Deadman’s is an example.  It is to be hoped that the policy will conclude that Deadman’s, and many tracks like it, are fundamentally unsuited to the passage of motorbikes and 4x4s, and that permanent traffic regulation orders will routinely be imposed.

 

Illegal off-roader convicted

Posted 20 Jan 2012

The Craven Herald (20.1.12) reports that a quad-biker who was attempting to ride along Dacre Lane, Otterburn, on a section with no vehicular rights, was reported to the police by three local members of the public, following a disagreeable, and, it seems, scary encounter.   In court, the rider pleaded guilty to a charge of inconsiderate driving.  His denial of the more serious charge of dangerous driving was accepted by the court.  The report says that the rider was fined £365 and had seven penalty points added to his licence.   It is encouraging that members of the public are persistent, and brave enough to confront illegal vehicular users of green lanes and report them to the police. It is encouraging, too, that the police and the courts took the complaint seriously.

 

Two new pages on our website

Posted 19 January 2011

We have extended the website by the addition of two new pages.  One is called ‘Frequently-asked questions.’  It sets out 13 of the commonest questions that we are asked, and our responses.  The other new page is ‘Glossary’.  Here we set out definitions of the key terms that crop up in all discussions about green lanes UCRs, BOATs, The List of Streets, NERC.....  and many more.

 

Who does the damage to green lanes?

Posted 19 January 2011

4x4 and motorbike users rarely, if ever, admit that they cause damage to green lanes.  Their habitual strategy is to attempt to shift the responsibility for causing damage on to farmers, who are supposed to have taken heavy equipment along the lanes, or on to the weather, for producing rainfall that washes out lanes that would otherwise remain in good condition, or on to highway authorities, for failing in their duties to engineer and maintain green lanes to a standard capable of withstanding the regular passage of 4x4s and motorbikes.  We can now test these assertions by seeing what happens to green lanes on which traffic regulation orders prohibiting recreational vehicles have been imposed.  The two images below are of Long Lane, the green lane that runs from Clapham to Selside.  The pictures were taken from the same spot.  One was taken before the imposition of the TRO.  The other was taken a few months after the order came into force.  The only difference in the possible source of damage is the presence of 4x4s and motorbikes before the TRO was imposed, and their absence when the TRO came into force.  Everything else - the weather, agricultural use, maintenance has remained constant.

 

 

 

Deadman’s Hill: Traffic Regulation Order imposed

Posted 19 August 2010

‘Deadman’s Hill’ is the name given to the green lane that starts just north of Scar House Dam in Nidderdale (OS 067772). It runs westward to Lodge, and then turns sharply north to ascend and cross the watershed between Nidderdale and Coverdale.  It descends to Arkleside.   The route has been pretty much devastated by 4x4s and motorbikes and is now virtually impassable, at the summit, on horseback, on a mountain bike, or on foot.  Lower down, vehicles have started to open up a parallel route in order to get round the crater that their activities have caused.  At the summit, vehicles have carved out two additional, unsightly routes that stray from the right of way.   In addition to the damage, the noise of vehicles reverberates around the fells, destroying the peace and tranquillity that used to be a feature of this remote area.

Along with local residents and the Friends of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we have been campaigning to have this route closed to recreational vehicles.  We are pleased to report that North Yorkshire County Council have just imposed a traffic regulation order (TRO), prohibiting recreational vehicles.  The order came into force on 16 August, and will remain in force until 15 February 2012.  It is encouraging that the highway authority has responded to complaints and concerns about the damage and nuisance caused by 4x4s and motorbikes.  The news would have been even more encouraging if the TRO had covered the whole of the route.  The section that runs southwards from Scar House Dam, across the moor to Middlesmoor is in slightly better condition than the Deadman’s section, but the steep section down to the dam is badly damaged.  Yet more encouraging still would have been news that the TRO will be permanent, following the model pioneered by the Dales National Park Authority. But the Deadman’s TRO is only temporary, and has been imposed not on general environmental and amenity grounds, but because the route is deemed (rightly) to be out of repair.  The problem with orders of this sort is that it lays on highway authorities an obligation to repair the route, within the period specified by the order, and re-open it to vehicles.  The cost of repairing Deadman’s Hill to a standard capable of withstanding regular, unrestricted use by 4x4s and motorbikes will be huge, and, in the forthcoming dearth of public funds, it is not clear that scarce money, which might be spent on keeping North Yorkshire’s ordinary road network in repair, should be devoted to a remote green lane, in order to facilitate the recreation of 4x4 and motorbike users.  And the scale of the work needed puts the project beyond the capabilities of voluntary work parties.  But suppose that repairs could somehow be carried out:  as soon as the temporary TRO is lifted, 4x4s and motorbikes would return to the route.  Indeed, probably more 4x4s would use it, for it is at present too damaged for most 4x4s to get through.  If the route is repaired and re-opened, the damage and nuisance that is at the heart of the matter would swiftly re-commence.  The only long-term solution is a permanent TRO on the whole route, from Middlesmoor to Arkleside, on environmental and amenity grounds.  The amenity of vehicle users is not to be set aside lightly, but in this case, their pleasure in riding and driving along a remote green lane that came into existence to serve cattle, plus the occasional horse and cart, and which has not been fundamentally adapted to accommodate modern motor vehicles, is not as precious as the amenity of those who farm the area, and those non-motorised visitors who go to the head of Nidderdale seeking peace and tranquillity.

Still, half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.  The prohibition on recreational vehicles for the next eighteen months is to be welcomed. 

 

Stockdale Lane: confirmed as a bridleway

Posted 3 August 2010

Stockdale Lane starts a mile to the east of Settle.  It branches off from High Hill Lane, and runs eastwards, parallel with Gorbeck Road, for approximately 4 miles, to emerge on the tarmac road above Malham Cove.  (From 836631 to 892640)   It has a spur that links with Gorbeck Road, making the ‘Settle Loop’ of the Pennine Bridleway.  Stockdale is on the definitive map as a bridleway - ie a route open only to horseriders, pedal cyclists and pedestrians.  Years ago, a member of the TRF the motorcyclists’ group put in an application, on the grounds of alleged historic horse-and-cart rights, to have this bridleway acknowledged as a route open to motor vehicles.  (Under the archaic rules that applied in this case, discovery of centuries-old horse-and-cart rights automatically guaranteed rights for present-day motor vehicles.)  The NERC Act set a cut-off date for such applications.  The Stockdale application beat the cut-off date and therefore had to be pursued to a conclusion by the National Park Authority.  YDGLA members conducted their own research into the history of the route and submitted their findings to the Park Authority.  The National Park’s conclusion (and our own) was that no evidence of public horse-and-cart - and therefore motor vehicular - rights of way could be found.  The applicant did not accept this conclusion: he exercised his right of appeal to the Secretary of State for adjudication. 

 

Meanwhile, the ‘Winchester Judgement’ was handed down by the High Court (on 29 April 2008).  This judgement clarified the law concerning applications such as the Stockdale application that had beaten the NERC cut-off date.  The judge ruled that in order for any such application to be successful in preserving motor vehicle rights (if there were any to be preserved), the application had to have been made in strict compliance with the regulations governing applications.  Before Winchester and the NERC Act, the only question that the authority had to consider was ‘Are there historic horse-and-cart rights (and therefore modern motor vehicular rights) on Stockdale Lane?’  The Authority’s answer to this question was ‘No’.   Winchester added a second, question: ‘Does the application pass the Winchester test was it made in full compliance with the regulations?’

 

The result was that the Secretary of State, to whom the Stockdale appeal had been referred, had to apply two tests.  First, could historic horse-and-cart rights be shown to exist?   If so, second; was the application properly compliant? The case languished for over two years, during which time vehicle users, taking advantage of the uncertainty, rode and drove along the route. 

 

On 2 August 2010 we were informed that the applicant had withdrawn his appeal. We do not know why.  But, whatever the reason, the conclusion to this saga is that Stockdale Lane is now confirmed as a bridleway.  This is welcome news.  Coupled with the recent decision to impose a traffic regulation order on Gorbeck Road (see below ‘Gorbeck Road: safe at last’), the withdrawal of the appeal on Stockdale Lane means that a large and beautiful area between Ribblesdale and Malhamdale will be freed from the damage and nuisance caused by motorbikes and 4x4s.  The legal status of both routes is now beyond dispute.  The ‘Settle Loop’ of the Pennine Bridleway can now flourish as it was intended to.  Very soon, the only legal motor vehicles to be met on this network of green lanes will be the few used by farmers.  Recreational vehicle users who defy either the confirmed bridleway status of Stockdale Lane, or the traffic regulation order imposed on Gorbeck Road, will be breaking the law.

 

Gorbeck Road: safe at last

Posted 12 July 2010

At its meeting on 8 July 2010, the Access Committee of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority resolved to impose a permanent, 7 days a week, 12 months a year, traffic regulation order (TRO) on Gorbeck Road, the green lane that runs between Langcliffe, in Ribblesdale, and Langscar Gate, in Malhamdale.  Unless something unforeseeable happens, this order will bring the saga of Gorbeck Road to a successful conclusion.  (See the postings below for the full background.)  At the Access Committee’s meeting, members, most of whom had been on a private visit to the green lane, resolved, with just one abstention, and no opposing votes, to impose the order, on the general grounds of the amenity of the area and the protection of the special qualities of the National Park.  The order comes into force on 23 August 2010.

 

It is just over a year since the National Park Authority was challenged in the High Court by vehicle users who objected to four TROs, including one on Gorbeck Road, that had been imposed by the Authority.  The vehicle users’ challenge was successful, and the four TROs were quashed.  However, it turned out, in parallel developments, that two of the routes in question had no end-to-end vehicular rights in the first place, and that a third, Stockdale Lane, is indubitably a bridleway.  This left just Gorbeck Road, its TRO quashed, once again vulnerable to damage and nuisance inflicted by recreational motor vehicles. Vehicle users took full advantage of the lifting of the TRO, and the malign impact of a year’s unrestricted 4x4 and motorbike use is clearly visible, especially on the eastern section of the route. At the same time, during the year following the High Court’s ruling, the Park Authority went back to the start, and conducted a whole new route assessment and a public consultation, both designed to comply with the court’s ruling.  The result is the new TRO imposed last week.

 

This is obviously good news for Gorbeck Road, for those who farm the pastures through which it passes, and for those horseriders, cyclists and walkers who use the route in order to experience Gorbeck’s essential peace and tranquillity.  But the news is good too for other national park authorities who are contemplating exercising their powers to impose TROs.  Last year’s High Court action by the vehicle users, which seemed such a setback at the time, has turned out to have been a blessing in disguise, for it has tested the law and has shown authorities exactly how they must proceed when they seek to protect their green lanes from recreational motor vehicles.   

 

Change of address

Posted 27 May 2010

Please note that our postal address has changed. Our new address is PO Box 159, Otley, LS21 9BT

 

Gorbeck Road: a permanent traffic regulation order finally in sight?

Posted 23 April 2010

Long-suffering Gorbeck Road, the superb green lane that runs from Langcliffe, eastwards to Langscar Gate, above Malham, has been in the wars for years.  Originally, its status was undetermined, and offroaders, believing that the route had vehicular rights, regularly used it, turning sections of it into impassable bogs.  Then, at a public inquiry, public vehicular rights were indeed confirmed.   Next, the route was chosen to be part of the Pennine Bridleway.  The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, with overwhelming support as expressed in a public consultation, then imposed a permanent traffic regulation order (TRO), prohibiting recreational motors from the route.  With the route closed to vehicles, a great deal of money was spent on bringing the route up to the standard required by the Pennine Bridleway.  Then, last June, vehicle users took the Park Authority to the High Court, claiming that the TROs on Gorbeck, and 3 other routes, had been improperly made.  They won, and the orders were quashed.  (See postings below.)  The Authority has responded by going right back to square one.  It has re-assessed the management needs of Gorbeck Road afresh. The result is that the Authority has just put out to public consultation a proposal that a full-time, permanent TRO should once again be imposed on the route.  For the full details of the proposed order, and of the way in which the public may respond to the proposal, see the Authority’s website:

http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/index/looking_after/access_to_the_countryside/ green_lane_management/traffic_regulation_orders.htm

There is now a real prospect that poor old Gorbeck Road will be given the permanent protection that it needs.  The damage that has been inflicted by the vehicles that have taken advantage of the quashing of the first TRO will have a chance to heal, and the peace and tranquillity that can reasonably be expected on this remote green lane will be re-established.  Vehicle users may respond to the public consultation by arguing that a seasonal, winter-only, TRO will suffice, but the non-motorised public are likely to support the proposal made by the Authority by arguing that only a full, twelve-months-a-year prohibition will secure the protection that Gorbeck Road needs.

 

Further reflections on the High Court TRO case

posted 27 June 2009

The dust is now settling, following the Judge’s decision to quash 4 traffic regulation orders imposed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.  (See item below, posted on June 20).  As might be expected, LARA, the motor-vehicle users’ group, is jubilant, and their website (laragb.org) includes a photograph of one of the successful litigants, rejoicing at the prospect of 4x4s and trailbikes once again motoring along Gorbeck Road. However, LARA’s jubilation is tempered: they set out a caution about the legality of using the other three routes included in the High Court judgment - Arncliffe Cote, and Stockdale Lane>.  LARA say that the right to take motor vehicles on these routes may have been affected by the NERC Act, and that any vehicle-user who is considering driving or riding along the length of the routes should first consult both his or her motoring organisation, and the highway authority, before doing so.  This caution is understandable.  LARA has to make sure that its advice is watertight: after all, it might be cited in court by a vehicle user who has been prosecuted for driving or riding the length of any of these three lanes.   YDGLA’s view is more forthright.  We consider that the NERC act certainly has affected the BOAT applications for the 3 routes, and has affected them lethally.  Vehicular use of the 3 routes is illegal.  Our reasons are as follows.

At present, one of the 3 lanes, Arncliffe Cote, has a very short section that is indubitably a BOAT.  Another, Harber Scar Lane, has a short section that may be a BOAT.  The third, Stockdale Lane, is bridleway throughout.  Two of the three, therefore, have no end-to-end vehicular rights, and Stockdale Lane has not one inch of vehicular rights on its entire 4 mile line, seeking to have the status of all three recognised as BOATs.  What LARA does not say, though, is that these applications are non-compliant, following the Winchester Case, which established that BOAT applications that do not comply exactly with the regulations cannot secure motor-vehicular rights.  The non-compliance of the 3 applications leaves the applicant with just two further shots in his locker if he insists on pursuing his case for vehicular rights throughout the length of the three routes.  First, he can argue that between May 2001 and May 2006 the main lawful use of the routes was use by motor vehicles.  If fired, this shot will fall ludicrously short of the target.  An attempt last year, using a similar shot, to secure a BOAT on a section of Moor Head Lane, was a dismal failure.  (See below, ‘An important provision of NERC is tested’.)  The second, desperate shot would be to try to argue that vehicular rights on the 3 routes were created by virtue of legal public motor vehicular use before 1930.  The chance of this shot hitting the target is zero.  The conclusion, therefore, is that despite the three BOAT applications that are lodged in the system, the non-vehicular end-to-end status of the 3 routes will not change.  Anybody who takes a vehicle along the full length of any one of the routes is breaking the law.  When prosecuted, the defendant would have the impossible job of proving that he had a right to be there, and any motoring organisation that came to his legal aid would be wasting its members’ money.

So, of the four TROs that the judge quashed, 3 have no continuous vehicular rights anyway.  It may not, therefore, be necessary to remake the defective TROs.

What about the fourth green lane, Gorbeck Road?  Here, a remade, 24/7 TRO will certainly be needed, for the route does have vehicular rights.  The new TRO should not prove too difficult to secure.  Indeed, the High Court judgment makes it easier for the authority to see precisely what is needed when orders are contemplated.  In this sense, expensive and time-consuming as it was, the High Court action will turn out to be useful: National Park authorities up and down the country will now know exactly what to do as they prepare to exercise the TRO-making powers given to them by NERC.  In the case of Gorbeck Road, the whole consultation exercise can be run through once more, but this time, every party that has a hand in the consultation - Park officers, Authority members, members of the Green Lanes Advisory Group, the general public - must be briefed about the need publicly to perform the balancing act required by section 122 - the section over which the Park Authority stumbled, first time round.  And it should be easy to show that in the case of Gorbeck Road, the balance comes down on the side of a prohibition on all recreational motors.

Overall, then, the prospect is much brighter than might have been imagined when the judge issued his ruling.  True, 4x4s and motorbikes will, for the time being, return to Gorbeck Road, as they are legally now entitled to.  The public, who responded at a rate of more than 3 to favour of the now-quashed TRO, will be incredulous, but they can take comfort from the likelihood of the eventual re-imposition of a TRO that meets the High Court’s requirements.  As for the other three routes, only foolhardy off-roaders will risk riding or driving along them, and, given both the vigilance of National Park rangers, and the militant state of public opinion, they will be reported to the police, and, it is to be hoped, successfully prosecuted.

YDGLA’s initial reaction to the High Court’s judgment was that 4x4 and motorbike users had won a small rearguard action in a war that they are bound to lose in the end.  Our revised view is that although we wince at the costs, from the public purse, that the Dales Park Authority will have to stump up to pay the costs of the High Court action, in the long run, the case will come to be seen as contributing very useful guidance on the way in which off-roaders can be prohibited from intruding into the countryside.   Public opinion has now decisively swung against the presence of motor vehicles on remote tracks in national parks and in the countryside generally. Vehicle users will, for some time, be able to use the law to obstruct the implementation of orders that give expression to what the public wants, but they cannot prevail indefinitely, and the more long-sighted of them know it.

 

A Setback in the High Court

20 June 2009

Back in May 2008 the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority made 8 traffic regulation orders, prohibiting recreational motor vehicles from some of the most beautiful and sensitive of the green lanes in the Dales.  These orders were challenged by the 4x4 and motorcycle users’ lobby group, LARA.  The case eventually came to court and was heard in the High Court in on June 2nd and 3rd (2009).  The judge issued his decision on June 19th. He quashed 4 of the 8 orders.  The four are: Arncliffe Cote, Harber Scar Lane, Stockdale Lane and Gorbeck Road.

The judge’s decision turned on a small, but decisive point of law.  Section 122 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act lays on authorities an obligation to balance their duty to ‘secure the.movement of vehicular and other traffic’, against their obligation to take into account matters that might override their duty to secure the movement of traffic (eg environmental matters, or matters of public safety indeed any matters that appear to the authority to be relevant). The judge held that there was no documentary evidence that the authority had publicly and explicitly performed this balancing act.  The Park Authority had argued that in declaring that the TROs were made ‘for the purposes of preserving amenity and conserving the natural beauty of the area’, it had implicitly fulfilled its duties under section 122.  The judge was not persuaded.  Visible, documentary evidence of the performance of the balancing act is what was required, and the Park Authority could not supply it.

Where does this judgement leave the four superb green lanes that are, seemingly, once again under threat from motor vehicle users?   The news is not as bad as it seems.  Away from the High Court there have been encouraging, concurrent developments that substantially moderate the impact of the judge’s ruling.*  Of  the four routes, only one, Gorbeck Road, has proven motor-vehicular rights.  To prohibit 4x4s and motorbikes once again from inflicting their unwelcome presence on Gorbeck Road, the Park Authority will have to remake a TRO, in ways that will accommodate the judge’s ruling.  This is entirely feasible, and highly desirable, given the money that has been spent on repairing the route and bringing it up to the standard necessary for the Pennine Bridleway money that will have been wasted if motor vehicles get back on to the route and ruin both its fabric and the sense of peace and tranquillity that has reigned there during the period of the TRO.

In the cases of the other three routes, none, it is now clear, had motor vehicular rights, throughout its length, in the first place.  This means that although the TRO signs will have to come down, 4x4 or motorbike users will still be breaking the law if they go ahead and use the full length of the routes.  If offenders are prosecuted, they will have the insuperable task of proving that the route they were using has motor vehicular rights.

Whether motorised users will venture on to these 3 lanes, and, if so, whether they will be prosecuted, remains to be seen.

* The ‘Winchester Case’, which established that applications for motor vehicular rights must comply exactly with the requirements of the relevant legal provisions.  The Winchester Case sent numbers of non-compliant Dales BOAT applications gurgling down the plughole. Winchester liberated three of the four green lanes in the High Court judgment from the threat of motor vehicular access.

 

An important provision of NERC is tested at a public inquiry in the Dales: a bad result for recreational vehicle users.

The NERC Act, in general, extinguishes motor vehicular rights on green lanes.  But there are a number of exceptions, and one of them was tested at a public inquiry, on 1 July 2008, into the status of a section of Moor Head Lane, near Helwith Bridge.  A short central section of the lane is a Restricted Byway - that is to say, a route that has no public rights for motors.  Relying on one of the exceptions provided by NERC, a group of motorcyclists attempted to convince the inquiry that motor vehicles had been the main users of the route for the five year period from May 2001 to May 2006. If they had succeeded in showing, on the balance of probabilities, that this was the case, the restriction on motor vehicles would have had to be lifted: the route would have had to be reclassified as a public motor-vehicular route.  However, the NERC 5-year-main-use test is extremely difficult to pass, for it is a comparative test:  the motorcyclists had to show that motorised use of the route exceeded non-motorised use of the route, during the 5 year period.  To make such a comparison, plausible figures for both types of use had to be supplied.  But the only evidence presented by the motorcyclists was a sheaf of forms on which individual members of the TRF - the motorcyclists’ association - had testified, from memory, to their own, periodic use of the track.  No evidence was supplied by them of the level of non-motorised use.   YDGLA presented the inquiry with its own evidence, gathered from its members, which showed that, contrary to the motorcyclists’ assertions, non-motorised use of the lane had been extensive.  The Inspector issued his report on 29 July 2008.  He concluded that the comparative test had failed, and that the disputed section of Moorhead Laneshould remain as a restricted byway.  This may seem an arcane area of highway law, but it is important.  Recreational vehicle user organisations, nationwide, are gathering testimony from their members of their use of green lanes during the five year period.  They seem to believe that this testimony is capable, on its own, of establishing that the main use of any particular route was vehicular and that, therefore, the route should be acknowledged as a public, motor-vehicular route.  The Moor Head Lane enquiry indicates strongly that their belief is misplaced.  The only way in which the ‘5-year-main-use’ exception can be tested is at inquiries where the applicant presents a convincing balance-of-use analysis of the 5 year period.  The production of analyses of this sort, however, is virtually impossible.  The chances of records of use of the disputed route having been kept by all users, when there was absolutely no reason, at the time, for them to have been kept, are vanishingly small.  And the chances of vehicle users having secured access to those records that, against the odds, were kept, must be zero. But the 5-year-main-use test requires applicants to produce such records.  The Moor Head Lane enquiry demonstrates the futility of attempting to secure rights for motor vehicles in the absence of the necessary comparative evidence. 

 

Traffic regulation orders in the Dales National Park: good news, tempered by a worrying development

A ten league stride was taken by the Dales National Park Authority’s Access Committee at its meeting on 17 April 2008. It voted to authorize the imposition of full, 24 hour, 7-days-a-week traffic regulation orders on eight of the most vulnerable green lanes in the Dales.  (Ling Gill, Arncliffe Cote, Stockdale Lane, The High Way, Gorbeck Road, Cam High Road, Foxup Road, and Harber Scar Lane.)

The results of the public consultation, which were laid before the committee, and which informed the committtee’s decision, were plain.  For every vehicle user who objected to the proposed orders, there were more than three members of the public who supported them.    Moreover, while the opposition to the orders came exclusively from vehicle users, the support for them came from a wide range of Dales opinion – from farmers, cyclists, parish councils, the Yorkshire Dales Society and many others. 

A further stride was taken at the subsequent Access Committee meeting, on 22 July 2008, when a further 5 TROs were imposed. (Mastiles Lane, Long Lane [Clapham to Selside] , Horsehead Pass, Carlton to Middleham High Moor, Barth Bridge to Garsdale.)

However, LARA, the umbrella group representing vehicle users, has issued a High Court challenge to the first batch of TROs.  The case - which will be a test case - will probably be heard sometime before the end of 2008.  The rules of the High Court mean that details of LARA’s challenge, and the Dales Authority’s response to it, have to be kept confidential by the 2 parties, so we do not know the details.  One thing is clear, though.  The ruling by the High Court will set a precedent.  It will establish the way in which traffic regulation orders must be imposed.  Watch this space.

 

Traffic Regulation Orders in the Dales National Park

Under the NERC Act, National Park Authorities were given the powers to impose traffic regulation orders on green lanes.  Hitherto, the powers had lain with highway authorities.  The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is currently working its careful way through a public consultation on the possibility of imposing orders on 15 of the most sensitive routes - 8 in one batch, and 5 in another.  It is too early to be sure how this consultation will turn out, but it is encouraging to see the Authority exercising its new powers.  The first results should be visible by the summer of 2008.

A real breakthrough: the NERC bill passes into law

The two chief provisions of the NERC Act, which came into force on 2 May 2006, are these:

1.  Public motor vehicle rights are extinguished on all routes that are on the definitive map as bridleways or footpaths (with a few exceptions, noted below.)  This means that if an up-to-date Ordnance Survey map shows that a route is a bridleway or footpath, recreational vehicle users have no right to be there.  If they do ride and drive on footpaths and bridleways they are open to prosecution.  This provision of NERC brings much-needed clarification to the map, and it gives protection to footpaths and bridleways from challenges by motor-users: they can no longer claim that these routes have underlying vehicular rights.

2.  National Park Authorities will have the power to impose Traffic Regulation Orders, prohibiting recreational motor vehicles from green lanes.  (Formerly, these powers were retained by Highway Authorities and were only rarely used.)

Exceptions: If a properly-completed application for a vehicular byway (BOAT) was lodged before 20 January 2005 it will be processed under the old, ‘horse-and-cart’ rules, which offer vehicle users the prospect that motor-vehicular rights may be confirmed on the claimed routes.  All applications lodged after 20 January will be treated as applications for restricted byways – ie routes that bear rights for pedestrians, pedal cyclists, equestrians, and essential motor vehicles (eg farm or emergency vehicles) only.  There are a number of these exempted applications in the Dales.

There is, however, a weakness in the Act.  Routes that are ‘Unclassified County Roads’ (UCRs) – that is to say, publicly-maintainable routes whose exact status is uncertain - are exempt from the Act.  How many UCRs will eventually have to be recognised as bearing rights for motor vehicles is unknown.   There are over 100 kms of UCRs in the Dales.  In the absence of clarity about their status, it is likely that opportunistic 4x4 drivers and motorcyclists will insist on using them.

More good news this time from Blubberhouses Moor

English Nature has produced a report on the state of this vast moor in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The report shows that the damage to the moor caused by recreational vehicles is so severe that if the moor were to be closed to them for five years, parts of the damaged sections would still not have had time to regenerate.  In the light of this damning report, and with the support of a number of recreational vehicle user groups – whose support we welcome and salute -, the highway authority has imposed traffic regulation orders on all the byways that criss-cross the moor.  The signs and the barriers were installed in early October 2005.  Considering its proximity to the huge urban centres of Leeds and Bradford, Blubberhouses Moor used to be a very remote and peaceful place, with grassy tracks winding across the heather.  The tracks are now morasses, and at the weekends, before the TROs were imposed, the noise of motorbikes echoed across the moor.  It will take time before the beneficial effects of the TROs are seen and heard, but already the number of vehicles traversing the moor has fallen substantially.  The TROs promise that both the fabric and the ambience of the moor will eventually be restored.

Experimental traffic regulation orders in the Dales: still in place.

The eighteen-month experimental traffic regulation orders (ETROs) that were imposed, in March 2004, on 4 badly-damaged green lanes in the Craven area of the Dales came up for their first review in July 2005.  A bulky and painstaking report on the effect of the orders was prepared jointly by the National Park Authority and North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC).  The report shows that:

  • Compliance with the orders has been good. Motorbike use of the lanes, for example, has dropped by 90%.
  • The rutting of the lanes caused by recreational vehicles has not yet healed, but even so, the lanes look better. They are grassing over well.
  • The damage caused by recreational vehicles is much more serious and extensive than that caused by agricultural vehicles.
  • The quality of the Dales that users of the lanes value most highly, after scenic grandeur, is peace and tranquillity. This quality returned to the 4 green lanes when recreational vehicles were prohibited.
  • Nearly half of the respondents in the perception surveys carried out during the experiment said that recreational vehicles should be prohibited altogether from green lanes in the National Park.

The ETROS were due to expire in September 2006, a month or so before responsibility for the making of TROs in the Dales National Park passed to the National Park Authority.  There was, therefore, the prospect of a gap opening during the interim which would have been filled by the return of 4x4s and motorbikes to the 4 routes.  However, NYCC made fresh orders on the routes that will bridge the gap.  How quickly the Park Authority will be able to make the 4 orders permanent remains to be seen.  But there is no doubt about what the general public wants.  Here are three indicators:

  • In March 2004, ICM Ltd carried out a public opinion survey on countryside issues.  They found that 87% of the population favour a ban on recreational vehicles on rights of way in national parks and other protected landscapes.  Only 8% want vehicles to be permitted to use such routes.  (5% don’t know.)
  • In July, YDGLA submitted a petition to the chairman of North Yorkshire County Council.  4,000 people - chiefly residents of, and visitors to the Dales National Park - had signed their name to a call for legislation, local or national, to prohibit recreational vehicles from the Dales National Park and the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • In the report on the impact of the ETRO scheme, virtually half (49%) of respondents to the perception survey wanted recreational vehicles banned from all green lanes in the national park.  The report on the ETRO scheme analyses the individual written submissions that were sent in.  Of the 193 who wrote in, 183 supported the scheme.  111 writers, from the total of 193, wanted the orders to be made permanent.  55 said that they wanted the scheme to be extended across the park.<.li>