Frequently asked questions
What exactly is the problem?
Unsurfaced rights of way are increasingly being used by motorised vehicles in the Peak District National Park. Many routes cross environmentally sensitive areas, or are in particularly tranquil and iconic locations. There are two main problems. Firstly: routes are becoming physically damaged; and secondly, other users are disturbed by the noise and aggressive behaviour of a small minority of irresponsible drivers.
What do you mean by damage?
Most off-roaders are responsible people enjoying their legal hobby. However, they may not be aware of the damage they are causing which includes erosion, ruts that endanger farm animals and disturbance for local residents. Routes can become impassable for walkers, horse riders and cyclists. Worse than this, irresponsible off-roaders who drive off tracks and onto open moorland then also destroy precious wildlife habitats.
Why are you attacking off-roaders in particular?
We’re not. We know that off-roading provides enjoyment and that many people do it legally and responsibly. However on some routes, this enjoyment comes at a cost to the National Park’s environment and the enjoyment of others. We don’t want to attack anyone, but we exist to protect the Peak District.
These are roads – how can it be off-roading?
We talk about ‘off-roading’ as the activity done by 4x4 vehicles and trail bikes that are capable of going off tarmacked roads. The tracks we’re concerned about aren’t roads as most people think of them. They are unsurfaced tracks, many of which would normally be covered in grass. In most cases they have never been surfaced for motorised vehicles. OK, so they have legal status (most commonly as a ‘Byway Open to All Traffic’) but this is from the time when traffic was horse and cart!
If using a vehicle is legal why should it be stopped?
Tracks may well be legal, but they are not all suitable for high levels of use by motorised vehicles today. Some are historic routes that used to connect towns and villages centuries ago. Now we’ve got proper tarmacked roads that do that. We think that modern – and often heavy – vehicles should be stopped from using these tracks which weren’t built for them and can’t stand up to the damage.
What do you think needs to be done?
Derbyshire County Council (the area’s highway authority) and Peak District National Park Authority can remove the legal right to drive on these tracks by issuing Traffic Regulation Orders. And in the case of the most damaged and vulnerable tracks, that’s what we’re asking them to do.
We also want the police to take firmer action against illegal off-roading, and solutions such as less sensitive areas for off-roading to be developed.
Aren’t voluntary restraint policies and codes of practice enough?
Sadly, no. We know that some people who enjoy off-roading have tried to get other people to be responsible in where and how they go off-roading, but we can see the evidence in the Peak District that this approach isn’t working. For the worst affected sites, we need something more effective.
Can’t the damage just be repaired?
Yes, but it's hugely expensive and a potentially bottomless pit. Funding for Rights of Way is a low priority for highways authorities and the costs of repairs, which are often required repeatedly, are high. Derbyshire County Council allocated £255,000 for Long Causeway. Before opening in 2012, more than £500,000 was spent in repairing the Roych section of the of the Pennine Bridleway. A year later Derbyshire County Council spent a further £24,000 on the Roych to repair damage from MVUs. In today’s economic climate it doesn’t make sense to spend more money on these routes when Traffic Regulation Orders could resolve the problem at a fraction of the cost.
Is it just off-roaders causing damage?
No. All users of rights of ways (including walkers, runners, mountain bikers and horse riders) can cause damage to unsurfaced routes. However the damage caused by vehicles is far, far worse than that caused by other activities.
Most off-roaders are responsible – why should they be stopped from pursuing their hobby?
We know that, but some routes are just too vulnerable even for responsible drivers. It may be legal to drive on a deeply rutted and damaged track, but it’s not environmentally sustainable. We’re not asking for Traffic Regulation Orders to close vulnerable routes to spoil anyone’s fun. It’s to save our national park from increasingly terrible erosion.
What about people who have mobility problems?
We’re not asking for all off-roading routes to be closed. We know that for some people with mobility problems an off-road vehicle is one way to access the landscapes they love, but we think it’s possible to carry on doing that in some places without causing serious erosion and destroying precious wildlife habitats.
Why is Friends of the Peak District involved?
We got involved in this issue because our members, local residents and visitors asked us to.
Friends of the Peak District is the national park society for the Peak District. We to campaign against activities that damage the National Park environment or disturb its tranquility.
The Peak District National Park is special. National Parks have the highest status of landscape protection. They have two statutory purposes set down in law, to:
• conserve and enhance their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage
• promote opportunities for the public understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities
All decisions in the National Park should comply with these purposes. In the event of a conflict between them, conservation takes precedence over recreation. This is a legal duty known as the Sandford Principle.
Who else is involved?
We’re not alone in our campaign!
We’re working with a huge range of organizations and individuals, including
• Abney Parish Council
• Bamford Parish Council
• Bradwell Parish Council
• British Horse Society
• British Mountaineering Council
• Brough and Shatton Parish Council
• Edale Parish Council
• Forum for Ancient Byways
• Great Hucklow Parish Council
• Great Longstone Parish Council
• Grindlow Parish Council
• Outseats Parish Council
• Peak District Green Lanes Alliance
• Pilsley Parish Council
• the Ramblers
• Rocking the BOAT
We liaise closely with the Peak District National Park Authority and Derbyshire Police through their Operation Blackbrook.