~ We launched our ‘Take Back the Tracks’ campaign three years ago when an increase in 4×4, trail bike and quad bike activity was endangering vulnerable Peak District landscapes including Rushup Edge and Stanage. At that time our policy was to promote better management through consensus rather than apply restrictions to routes which had legal rights for motorised vehicle users. Only on the most environmentally sensitive routes did we campaign for closure.
However, due to escalating damage on an increasing number of routes it became clear that current legislation is ineffective to control the situation. Consequently, we have now changed our policy to campaign for a change in the law to make all off-roading by motorised vehicle users in the National Park illegal.
Despite welcome changes in rights of way law within the CRoW Act (2000) and NERC Act (2006), off-road vehicles continue to use routes (both legally and illegally) which, due to their location and condition, cannot sustain such use. The adverse physical condition of some routes can make them impassable to walkers, horse riders and cyclists. If they can still pass their enjoyment is marred by noise and conflicts between them and off-roaders. There can also be serious impacts on wildlife, soil erosion and land management, particularly where irresponsible off-roaders drive off tracks and onto open moorland.
Tools for addressing these impacts range from repairing and maintaining damaged routes to applying traffic restraint orders (TROs) that limit vehicle use to a more acceptable level or ban their use completely. Within the National Park the Authority can instigate TROs on the grounds of improving amenity and/or protecting the environment. However in the six years since the Authority has been able to apply TROs only two have been pursued to completion. The only highway authority initiated permanent TRO in the National Park on a lane where the vehicular use has been considered unsustainable is one that limits width on Washgates. Instead the duty to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic prevails and the route is repaired. Both the bureaucratic procedures for TROs and recurrent maintenance are resource hungry and costly, and to date have not addressed inappropriate use of sensitive routes. As the damaging impacts of vehicle use and conflict between users are escalating we now believe that in the National Park all unsealed rights of way (Byways Open to All Traffic and Unclassified County Roads) should become Restricted Byways and lose their rights of way for motorised vehicle users. When an opportunity arises the Friends will seek to change the law, as it applies within the National Park, such that all off-road motorised vehicle use is made illegal.
Until the law changes as it applies to the National Park, and outside the National Park in High Peak and in South Yorkshire, our policy remains one of addressing the most sensitive routes and preserving the majority of routes for ‘quiet enjoyment’ by foot, horse or bike, depending on the status of the right of way.