Take Back the Tracks

Motorised vehicles permanently banned on four green lanes

Since 2014 the Peak District National Park Authority has issued no less than four permanent Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) in order to ‘conserve nature and the quiet enjoyment of the wild landscape’. The bans are on Long Causeway, The Roych, Chapelgate and Leys Lane and all exclude trail-bikes, quad-bikes and 4x4s but not wheelchairs or electric disability scooters and trampers.

The decisions all follow public consultations in which the Authority received thousands of responses, the majority supporting a vehicle ban in each case.

With four iconic routes protected from damaging and conflicting use by recreational motor vehicles we are now seeking to ensure that other threatened lanes are also managed in the same way. These include Jacob’s Ladder in Stoney Middleton where villagers feel unable to use their local lane, Swan and Limer Rakes Hollinsclough, Washgate near Hollinsclough and School Lane in Great Hucklow where measures to ensure the safety of school children are urgently required.

Join our campaign to protect green lanes from off-roading damage

We expect the off-roaders to protest against bans so the fight is not yet over. To continue campaigns like this we need more support from people who love and care about the Peak District countryside. We rely on voluntary donations.

Please support our appeal by becoming a friend of the Peak District or by making a donation to our work

Why we are campaigning

We campaign against people destroying land and disturbing tranquility with off-road 4×4 vehicles, trail motorbikes and quad bikes. We focus on the most environmentally sensitive routes in the Peak District.

Most off-roading happens on lanes and paths where cars and motorbikes should not have the priority. There are various categories for different routes which can be confusing. Some are BOATs (Byways Open to All Traffic) and others are unclassified. Some off-roading is legal, but damaging; some off-roading is completely illegal.

Apart from ruining people’s quiet enjoyment of the countryside, off-roaders are causing serious erosion and destroying precious wildlife areas, including some which are nationally and internationally important.

What you can do

  • Get in touch if you are concerned about off-roading in a place that’s important to you
  • Write to or email the Peak District National Park Authority or Derbyshire County Council about off-roading
  • Report actual incidents of illegal off-roading to your local police (but make sure you don’t put yourself in any danger) on the non emergency phone number (101)

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who has supported our Take Back the Tracks campaign so far. Together we sent a clear message to the Peak District National Park Authority that it needed to get tough on off-roaders. And our message got through!!

The National Park Authority is committed to work on 29 routes in the National Park, including making repairs on some and consulting on road closures on others. In particular, the action plan identified four lanes where it will consult with the public about vehicle regulation:

  • Derby Lane, Monyash
  • Minninglow Lane
  • School Lane
  • Washgate Lane

 See below for further information:

Brushfield - Upperdale in Monsal Dale

Following a public inquiry, Brushfield has been determined to be a bridleway, however this result has been subject to a legal challenge. We now await the outcome of further hearings.

The lane leading from Upperdale in Monsal Dale to Brushfield near the A6 Buxton Road is an area popular with walkers. The steep section rising from Monsal Dale is in a bad condition with loose stones and is in places down to bedrock. It is valued by horse riders as the only route connecting Cressbrook, Longstone, Ashford and Bakewell area with the White Peak towards Taddington and the plateau beyond Brushfield. We consider that vehicle use is incompatible with use by walkers and horse riders, and are encouraging the Peak District National Park Authority to ban motor traffic rather than implement a permit system. However the status of the route has yet to be determined and until it is there is no point in determining long term management – if it is, as we suspect, a bridleway then vehicular rights of way would automatically be extinguished.

Chapelgate - Rushup Edge between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Edale

Chapel Gate is a green lane that skirts Rushup Edge, the beautiful high ridge between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Edale. We’ve been campaigning with local people to get Chapel Gate closed and start saving this iconic landscape from more damage. We were delighted when the Peak District National Park Authority served a permanent ban on 4x4s and trail bikes in 2014. Although no motor vehicles should be using the route the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) has drastically reduced the number doing so.

Chertpit and Leys Lane - from Great Longstone towards Wardlow

Chertpit and Leys Lane lane runs from Great Longstone towards Wardlow and was the subject of the 2011 BBC4 TV programme about green lane issues, Tales from the National Parks: Peak District. It is a very narrow lane well used by walkers, both local and visiting. It is too narrow to allow for safe use by vehicles. The Peak District National Park Authority served a permanent ban on 4x4s and trail bikes January 2015 on Leys Lane. However, although vehicular traffic has reduced it has not been as great as that on other lanes restricted with recent TROs.

Derby Lane - Monyash

Derby Lane, part of the historic old road between Derby and Manchester, traverses the elevated limestone plateau south east of Monyash. Although part of the route is sealed in the middle section it becomes a true grassy lane crossing a protected field with lead rakes and a barrow adjacent to it. Here trail bikes have damaged the vulnerable wetter ground with ruts over a wide area. The National Park Authority is planning to consult on vehicle regulation on the route, in anticipation of the route’s status being defined as a BOAT.

Houndkirk - near Sheffield

In the past, Friends of the Peak District have campaigned against 4×4 drivers and trail bikers carving up Houndkirk Road near Sheffield. While Houndkirk is a legitimate byway and open to motor vehicles, off-roaders often drive recklessly and have caused extensive damage to the road especially in wet weather. Of still greater concern was a trials circuit they had created on an area of open moorland at the highest point on the road (just above Parson House Farm). Damage to such a Site of Special Scientific Interest is illegal, an eyesore and an invitation for drivers to go further onto the moor.
We worked with Natural England, the Peak District National Park Authority and Sheffield City Council (SCC) to find ways to prevent further incursions and protect the land. As a result a team from Moors for the Future fenced off the area, installed access gates for walkers, repaired the battered ground and spread heather brashings.

As a result the heather has begun to re-establish itself and the area is returning to something like its former glory. There was some concern that 4×4 users would simply move to a different part of the moor and, sure enough, some irresponsible drivers began to re-open an old track that skirted the bridge towards the Ringinglow end of the track.

Large boulders deployed by SCC soon put a stop to that however and there have been no further serious incidents.
In March 2011 SCC resurfaced the eastern section of Houndkirk Road with gritstone aggregate. Large boulders were installed to stop vehicles widening the road. The response from many users was negative – not helped by the fact that although the changes had been discussed by the Local Access Forum, more could have been done to gauge the feelings of the large number people who see Houndkirk as a vital gateway to the Peak District. Some felt that the boulders were an eyesore that fundamentally compromised the impression of open moorland.

In spite of these reservations, SCC carried out further work on the central section of the road. It’s only fair to point out that SCC’s Rights of Way Team were in something of a cleft stick. They have a legal responsibility to maintain the route in a safe state for all users and installed the boulders in an attempt to create safe havens for walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers. Unfortunately, all it succeeded in doing was reducing the width of the road and forcing users into even closer proximity. It’s safe to say that the discussion is ongoing.

Luckily, every cloud has a silver lining and the Rights of Way Team has now embarked on a policy of minimal work wherever possible and lines of communication between them and FoPD have never been better.

Jacob’s Ladder - Stoney Middleton

Jacob’s Ladder is a narrow winding lane commencing in the village near the church and ascending through woodland towards Eyam. The evidence from residents and visitors for closing the lane to motorised traffic is compelling. Its ancient cobbled surface has been completely destroyed. Derbyshire County Council has twice repaired the lane but this is a short term measure which does not address unsustainable use or the conflicts that arise between those using motorised vehicles and other more vulnerable users. The steep ascent with poor sightlines makes the lane inherently dangerous to be used by horse riders and pedestrians whilst vehicles are permitted to use it. Local people are now intimidated into using what was a treasured amenity. The Parish Council has been asking Derbyshire County Council to take action to manage the lane appropriately for twenty years but to date no action has been taken, despite a local resident having been knocked down by a trail bike recently. We understand that a consultation by Derbyshire County Council on how to manage use of the lane is imminent – watch this space!

Long Causeway - Stanage Edge

Long Causeway has long been one of our priority tracks. The 3.6km former packhorse route runs through one of the Peak District’s most iconic and sensitive places – Stanage Edge. It passes through internationally protected wildlife and geological areas, including a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the Dark Peak Nature Improvement Area – and has been ravaged by 4×4 drivers and trail bikes. We believe that closing it permanently to motor traffic in 2014 was the only way to ensure this important area is protected for the future.

Minninglow and Gallowlow Lane - Ballidon Parish

The route links minor roads south of Minninglow Hill in Ballidon Parish. It provides great views of the limestone plateau and passes through an area rich in archaeological remains. Its green grassy character is inherent to its distinctiveness and repairs would harm its special quality. Although we would have preferred to see a seasonal TRO, the Authority is, in the first instance, planning to trial voluntary restraint in the winter months when severe rutting with standing water is caused by recreational motor vehicle use.

Pin Dale - near Castleton

Pin Dale is near Castleton and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its nationally important limestone geology. It also has historic lead working remains, and rare habitats for unique plants and flowers. It’s particularly vulnerable because it has an unsurfaced track that is legal for cars and trail-bikes. The problem has been irresponsible drivers and riders who have used it as a race-track or rubbish dump – and driving off road. English Heritage, working with Natural England and Lafarge, have now fenced and blocked off the sensitive areas but damage is still occurring.

The Roych - near Chapel-le-Frith

The Roych near Chapel-le-Frith is a 3.5km section of the Pennine Bridleway, a national trail dedicated principally to horse-riders but also used by cyclists and walkers. It is an extremely environmentally sensitive route, passing through an iconic landscape of sparsely settled gritstone uplands with heather moorland and peat bog, wooded valleys and gritstone walls that was seriously damaged by off-roading activity from 600 4x4s and trail-bikes that went there every month, mainly at weekends. Vehicles left the highway, both to avoid difficult features and to link to Chapelgate nearby. A large amount of public funding had been spent on the route and the levels of use were damaging repaired sections. Attempts to partially restrict use by 4x4s and trail bikes using a voluntary one-way system and a Code of Conduct failed, making a permanent ban on vehicle use the only way to protect the route. Since this was implemented in February 2014 motorised vehicle use has drastically reduced.

School Lane - Great Hucklow

School Lane crosses Great Hucklow Wood, an ancient and protected woodland site. Trial bikes and 4x4s are damaging the woodlands as well as the character of this track, and making it difficult for other people to use. Part of the route is an access to the local primary school, so there are serious concerns about the safety of children and parents too. At the end of 2010, Derbyshire County Council consulted on plans to close School Lane to all traffic, which we supported. The Council’s delay in making a decision following the consultation exceeded the two year time frame for activating a TRO. Consequently any vehicle regulation process will have to restart from the beginning with fresh consultation. In recognition of the serious conflict between users of this lane, Derbyshire County Council is planning to trial voluntary arrangements.

Swan and Limer Rakes - Hollinsclough in the southwest Peak

Swan and Limer Rakes provide a circular walk from Hollinsclough in the southwest Peak in Staffordshire. Limer Rake is an old packhorse route providing the right of way to several fields. Increasing use by vehicles has led to the surface becoming deeply eroded and rutted with loose stones on loose earth, boulders and rock steps. Adjoining walls have been broken down, banks have been undercut and the roots of trees have been exposed and torn. The erosion is now so deep that field gates accessing the lane stand high above the level of the Rake. The original stone drains, which carried water away at several intervals into adjoining fields are now above the surface of the lane and ineffective. Consequently water now flows down the Rake itself, adding to the erosion and moving rocks and soil down the hill into Hollinsclough village.

Swan Rake between Home Farm and the turn off to Limer Rake is vulnerable because of the amount of damage to the road from water run-off from Limer Rake, which has created a deep rut which would be dangerous to vehicles or cyclists moving at speed. Further up the hill Swan Rake has a series of rock steps between 35 and 60cm in height. At present we are trying to get Staffordshire County Council to consider the management of these routes.

Washgate Lane - Hartington Upper Quarter

Washgate Lane, in Hartington Upper Quarter, has a listed pack horse bridge and some lovely tranquil countryside around it but cars and bikes were eroding the lane and disturbing the peace here. In March 2011 Derbyshire County Council implemented a ban on vehicles over one metre wide. However motorbikes continue to damage the lane and create conflict with other users. The Peak District National Park Authority is currently asking statutory consultees for their views on making some form of traffic regulation order to restrict use of the route by recreational mechanically propelled vehicles. The Peak District National Park Authority has consulted on making some form of traffic regulation order to restrict use of the route by recreational mechanically propelled vehicles and the outcome is awaited.

Chapelgate

Chapel Gate is a green lane that skirts Rushup Edge, the beautiful high ridge between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Edale. We’ve been campaigning with local people to get Chapel Gate closed and start saving this iconic landscape from more damage. We were delighted when the Peak District National Park Authority served a permanent ban on 4x4s and trail bikes in 2014. Although no motor vehicles should be using the route the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) has drastically reduced the number doing so.

What are we doing elsewhere?

Throughout the Peak District, we are campaigning to stop the destruction of landscapes in other places, and to preserve routes for quiet enjoyment by foot, horse or bike. Have a look at our new off-roading policy for more information. We’re lobbying for

  • the most sensitive routes to be closed to 4x4s and trail bikes
  • the police to take firmer action against illegal off-roading
  • innovative solutions such as developing dedicated, less sensitive areas for off-roading

Absolutely FAB

We’ve been working with the Peak District Green Lanes Alliance – an action group against irresponsible off-roading in the Peak District, made up of local parishes and recreational users. This was formerly FAB (Forum for Ancient Byways) which was set up to bring together local parishes and communities affected by off-roading in and around the Hope Valley.

Questions and answers

We’ve had a great response to our campaign so far. Lots of people have asked us questions about what we’re doing, so have a look at our answers here.

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 4×4 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.