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Fight for the Right

Green-Laning & recreational 'off roading' are under threat

Off Roading is under threat. In recent months we have seen a fight for the Ridgeway, an intended ban on all the off-road routes in the Lake District, and most recently, a plan by DeFRA to ban motor vehicles from all the UK's un-surfaces roads, which they would see down graded to footpaths or bridleways.

And the threats are not just limited to 'green laning', which is in a bit of a grey area as far as being the use of motor vehicles on public roads, merely un surfaced ones.

The threats are many fold and insidious.

In the UK land is at a premium. We have one of the most densely populated areas in Europe, if not THE most populated area. Few other countries have any where near the population density of Great Britain, so it is not surprising that the question of Land Access and Usage should be so contentious.

There isn't much of it to go round, and every one thinks that what there is should be used in their interests.

So lets face it, on the one hand we have the demand for land for housing - people NEED homes. Then we have the demand for industry - people NEED jobs. And we have a demand for agriculture - people NEED food.

Conservation, recreation and leisure, really should be at the bottom of the priority list. But in the topsy turvy world of politics they aren't.

The biggest threat to off roading comes from other leisure activity interest groups. The main bulk of opposition centres on environmental and conservation arguments, though to be fair a lot of 'proper' interest groups are often as supportive as they are anti-supportive.

The most vocal opposition to motor use in the country side comes from bodies like the Ramblers Association and the National Trust.

With a vast spectrum of groups all looking at persuing their leisure time in the country side, it is more often personal jealousy and desire than moral justification that fuels a lot of the arguments.

Unfortunately they are there, and they are often vocal and vicious.

As far as green lanes are concerned, the battles tend to be small scale disputes fought with local councils, where routes are to be reclassifies or moved, though there have been a number of recent 'headline' cases such as the Lakes District National Parks Authority who proposed to make it policy to both further discourage motor vehicles from unsurfaced routes, and to actively lobby parliament for the practice to be outright banned.

Defra, the Department for the Environment and the like, similarly has tabled draft proposals to remove vehicular rights from whole swathes of routes.

And a 'local' case, concerning the 'Green Way', also got national coverage.

Mean while, local activists persist in getting route status's clarified and added to the definitive map, so that vehicular rights might be preserved.

But, the subject is bigger than that. Green Lanes are public roads and it is merely a question of keeping vehicular rights on them, and tarmac off.

Opening out the issue, motor sport, is also suffering. The regulations for organising an off-road motor sport event are getting ever more difficult and complicated, and proposed legislation intends to remove the right of a lot of land owners from staging 'occasional' events on their land.

The National Trust already refuse to allow any motor sport activity to be held on any of their land - a policy which removes large swathes of land that are owned by the NT but leased to local farmers on a commercial basis, from availability.

So even where legal rights exist, and permission may be given, the amount of land available each year is diminishing, and unfortunately, demand is increasing.

Commercially, a land holder will find it far more profitable to host a car boot sale, than say a 'grass track' car race, and a lot less daunting administratively, and without causing any hostility amongst their neighbours.

The Motor-Sports Association, and the Autoc Cycle Union, are increasingly finding that local clubs are having difficulty finding venues to stage events, and then when they do, even more getting them sanctioned by ever more cautious clerk's of the course, worried about insurance and liability and possible legal action.

In consequence a body called LARA was set up to represent the interests of any body wanting to use land in the country for motor-vehicle recreation, and they deserve your support

But, you can help a lot just by being aware of the issues, and 'doing your bit'.

That means following the 'tread lightly' code of practice for green laning. Acting responsibly on the 'lanes, and in the country side, and encouraging others to do so.

At the end of the day, the 'legislators' would prefer to have all unsurfaced routes free of motorised traffic, and all off road events staged on dedicated tracks, just like circuit sport.

That would be a sad day. Such venues would be fewer and more expensive, and far less varied than the terrain we can currently legally drive, and it would be a sad day when you have to go to an enclosure to drive 'wild'!

 

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