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
AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY (AONB) This term signifies a landscape of high scenic quality that has been officially designated and protected. AONB landscapes are of a quality comparable to national parks, but the authorities that manage them have not been given the powers that national park authorities have. AONB authorities, for example, have no powers to impose traffic regulation orders (see below). In the Yorkshire Dales, the Nidderdale AONB shares a border with the Dales National Park, and encompasses landscapes of equivalent beauty.
BRIDLEWAY (BW) Routes that have public rights of way for pedestrians, pedal cyclists and horses, but not horse-drawn carriages and motor vehicles.
BYWAY OPEN TO ALL TRAFFIC (BOAT) As the name implies, these are rights of way have public rights for pedestrians, equestrians, pedal-cyclists and motor vehicles, although in order to distinguish them from the ordinary, tarmacadamed road network, they are additionally defined as having the character of routes used mainly for the purposes for which footpaths and bridleways are used. BOATs are marked on Ordnance Survey maps with lines of green crosses. Vehicular rights on BOATs may be suspended by means of Traffic Regulation Orders (see below).
DEFINITIVE MAP AND STATEMENT Records required to be kept by local authorities in order to record the exact location of all public routes, and to record the rights of way that subsist on each of them. The definitive map is necessarily a work in continuous progress: it is regularly updated to record new routes, diversions to existing routes, and changes in the rights of way status of routes. The Ordnance Survey uses the definitive map as the source of its signification of rights of way on its maps.
FOOTPATHS Routes that have public rights of way for pedestrians only.
GREEN LANE A useful, indispensable term, but one that has no legal standing. It signifies an unsealed rural track i.e. one that has no tarmac or concrete surface. It may be simply grass, or it may have, either wholly or in parts, a surface of cobbles or crushed stone.
GREEN-LANING See below, ‘Off-roading’.
LOCAL ACCESS FORUM (LAF) The Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000, set up LAFs in every area of the country, in order to supply authorities with advice and recommendations concerning all matters of public access to the countryside. Members of LAFs are appointed by their local authority, or national park authority. Authorities are required to establish and maintain balanced memberships of their LAFs, striking balances among land-owners, farmers, and recreational users including walkers, cyclists, equestrians and vehicle-users. The Nidderdale AONB is covered by the North Yorkshire LAF, and the Dales National Park by its own LAF. Local Access Forums are not to be confused with the Access Committee of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (see below).
LIST OF STREEETS A list, required to be kept by local authorities, that records routes whose maintenance is chargeable to the public purse. Unclassified County Roads (see below) are recorded on the List of Streets. This listing tells us nothing about the rights of way that subsist on UCRs. It tells us only that they are publicly maintainable. This is the view of the government’s legal advisers in the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs, but it is challenged by some recreational vehicle users who assert that UCRs, by definition, bear public motor vehicular rights. YDGLA’s own research has shown that at least one UCR in the Dales was, historically, dedicated as a bridleway. This undermines vehicle-users’ assertion that all UCRs bear rights for motor vehicles.
NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS AND RURAL COMMUNITIES ACT, 2006 (NERC) This highly important act set severe limits to the expansion of the network of green lanes that must be acknowledged to bear rights of way for motor vehicles. Section 67 of the Act extinguishes, with a few exceptions, the motor-vehicular rights on all routes that are recorded on the definitive map (and therefore on up-to-date Ordnance Survey maps) as footpaths, bridleways, or restricted byways. Before the NERC Act, recreational motor vehicle user groups took systematic advantage of the pre-existing law, which said that if a route any route, regardless of its character could be shown to have once been, maybe centuries ago, legally open to horses and carts, it must be acknowledged now to bear rights for motor vehicles. NERC puts an end to this archaic ‘horse-and-cart’ rule, and gives protection to hundreds of green lanes that were under threat of being classified as motor routes. The exceptions in NERC to the extinguishments of motor vehicular rights are important too, and they have led to numbers of legal cases and public inquiries in which the new law has been tested. The significant exceptions to the extinguishment of rights for motor vehicles are these:
Important tests of all of these exceptions have been made. exception number i is regularly tested in order to establish whether any particular route on the List of Streets has historic rights for motor vehicles. Exception number ii was tested in court and led to the ‘Winchester Judgment’ (see below). Numbers iii and iv have been tested at public inquiries where, so far, vehicle user groups have been unable to secure the vehicular rights that they were seeking. The exceptions provided by NERC present formidable obstacles to vehicle users who wish to engage them.
OFF-ROADING A term in widespread use, but one that is misleading: it is best avoided. In common parlance, including the parlance of many vehicle users, it signifies the practice of driving or riding specially-designed motor vehicles - usually 4x4s and motorbikes, but sometimes quad bikes - along rural green lanes. The problem with the term, as many vehicle users justifiably insist, is that the green lanes that are legally open to motor vehicles are, technically, indeed ‘roads’ even those that are simply grassy tracks. The term ‘off-roading’, vehicle users insist, should be restricted to the practice of taking vehicles, with the permission of the landowner, onto private land where there are no public rights of way. A better term for signifying legal vehicular use of green lanes is ‘green-laning’ but this term has not yet caught on widely: it is used by some 4x4 users but not normally by motorcyclists, who prefer the term ‘trailriding’.
OTHER ROUTES WITH PUBLIC ACCESS (ORPAs) See below; Unclassified County Roads
RESTRICTED BYWAY (RB) A right of way that excludes motor vehicles, save for emergency vehicles and vehicles requiring access to premises. RBs have public rights only for pedestrians, pedal-cyclists, horses, and horse-drawn carriages.
TRAILBIKES, TRAILBIKERS the names given to the specialist, cross-country motorbikes, and the motorcyclists who ride them along green lanes. Not to be confused with Mountain-bikers cross country pedal cyclists.
TRAFFIC REGULATION ORDER (TRO) the legal means by which recreational motor vehicles may be prohibited from using green lanes. TROs may be imposed, usually after public consultation, by local authorities and national park authorities. TROs can range from full-time, 7-days-a-week prohibitions, to seasonal, or day-by-day prohibitions. TROs can be permanent, temporary, or experimental.They can exclude all recreational vehicles, or some: eg they can exclude 4x4s but not motorbikes. Usually, TROs except from the prohibition landowners and occupiers, emergency vehicles, invalid carriages, and vehicles requiring access to premises.
UNCLASSIFIED COUNTY ROAD (UCR, OR UUCR - unsurfaced unclassified county road) These routes are recorded on local authorities’ list of streets (see above), and often on Ordnance Survey maps as ‘Other Routes With Public Access’ (ORPAs), marked with lines of green dots. UCRs certainly bear public rights of way for pedestrians, but beyond that, nothing is certain. It is likely that many of them bear rights for equestrians, pedal cyclists and motor vehicles, but the rights of way on UCRs have to be examined, case by case, by local authorities. This laborious and time-consuming examination, by under-staffed departments, will take many years. The uncertainty that hangs over UCRs makes their use by 4x4 and motorbike groups contentious. Were a vehicle user to be challenged by the police for driving or riding along a UCR, he or she should be able to supply evidence that the route indeed bears public motor vehicular rights. It is highly unlikely that many vehicle users could do this. Equally, in the absence of certainty about the rights of way on UCRs, the police are unlikely to challenge vehicle users. The contentiousness of vehicular use of UCRs will increase, for, with the impact of NERC, vehicle users have been displaced from many routes that they formerly used with legal impunity, onto UCRs, whose uncertain status gives them a cover for their activities.But since many UCRs are classic green lanes - quiet, unsealed tracks threading through the countryside, the public’s hostility to motor vehicles in the deep countryside will increase at a similar rate. UCRs can be protected by means of TROs, imposed either by local authorities or national park authorities.
WINCHESTER JUDGMENT This important legal judgment, issued by the Appeal Court, in April 2008, bore down heavily on applications from vehicle users for recognition of the vehicular status of many routes. The applications that were affected were those that were lodged before 20 January 2005 and which therefore were exempt from the extinguishment of vehicular rights embodied in NERC (See above). But a test case concerning an application to have a green lane in Hampshire acknowledged as a motor-vehicular route established that in order to be counted as a valid application, the application had to have been framed in exact compliance with the regulations governing the submission of maps and evidence. In the Winchester case, the application was shown to be non-compliant. The confirmation by the Appeal Court of the rightness of this rejection, established case law that has had the effect of sending hundreds of pending applications, submitted by applicants before January 2005, and now shown to be non-compliant, down the drain.
YORKSHIRE DALES NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITY (YDNPA) This is the legally-constituted authority set up to administer the national park. Its principal statutory duty is to ‘conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park.’Its secondary duty is to ‘promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the areas by the public.’ The so-called ‘Sandford Principle’ established that if there is a clash between these two duties, the duty of conservation is paramount. It might be thought that the duty of conservation automatically rules out the presence of 4x4s and motorbikes on green lanes. However, the Authority has no draconian legal powers to eliminate recreational vehicles from all green lanes, in one grand purge. It has to consider, case by case, each green lane, balancing its duty to keep rights of way open to legal users, against its duty to conserve and enhance the environment. Accordingly, the authority has surveyed every green lane in its charge, has set up an advisory group that includes equestrians, farmers, mountain-bikers, 4x4 and motorbike users, and walkers, and has conducted numbers of public consultations. The present position (in January 2011) is that full-time, permanent TROs have been imposed on eleven of the most fragile green lanes, and that the rest of the network of green lanes is under regular scrutiny by the Authority’s officers. Decisions about the management measures required on green lanes are taken by the Park Authority’s Access Committee, with advice from the Authority’s officers.