At any given time, many greenways are individually overshadowed by the threat of closure, but rarely is the entire legality of driving on greenways jeopardized. This, however, is the situation presented by a new DEFRA public consultation, which could lead to legislation banning the green route altogether.
The consultation seeks views on whether to ban vehicles used for leisure purposes from driving on unsealed roads – although its implications may be wider. For anti-greenlaning activists, this is an opportunity to mobilize, warns the Land Access & Recreation Association (LARA), which therefore urges all road users to make their voices heard.
Where does this consultation come from?
The consultation is part of the Government’s response to the National Parks and Areas of National Beauty (AONB) landscape review.
The Green Lane Association (GLASS), a key LARA member, pointed out that while the government’s response is not inherently anti-greenlaning, it points to motor vehicles as being responsible for certain areas of damage. The wording recognizes that greenways “often provide essential road access to local residents and businesses, and […] that many people enjoy using motor vehicles responsibly on greenways without causing damage or disruption. However, the government wants to address ‘damage and disruption caused by the excessive use of off-road motor vehicles on some unpaved routes’.
Two options are offered by the response. The first is to grant greater discretion to national park authorities and local road authorities to restrict lane use on a case-by-case basis. Lauren Eaton, head of operations at GLASS, describes this as “potentially concerning [because] the specific powers referred to already exist. Any failure in the successful management of rights of way to date is due to the ineffective use or failure to use these existing powers in a timely and constructive manner.
Alternatively, the report says, “the government could consider restricting the use of certain motor vehicles on unsealed roads through legislation […].’ This rather ambiguous formulation could have far-reaching implications.
Which roads could be affected?
A key nuance concerns the use of the term “unpaved roads”, which do not have their own legal designation. Lauren Eaton explains that Unclassified County Roads (UCRs) make up 60% of the UK road network, and while unpaved UCRs are generally of interest to environmentalists, “they are all a type of motorway in law and are governed by the same laws regardless of their surface.A DUC is simply a secondary road below class A, B or C, and most of us live on one, so any change in the law to that class of road could have a huge impact Changing the laws that govern greenways could have massive inadvertent or misunderstood impacts on the paved road network.
What can we do?
Route users are encouraged to read the guidance document titled “Landscape Review (National Parks and AONB): Government Response” which can be found herethen respond to the DEFRA online consultation which can be found hereon the April 9 closing date.
LARA also urges users to speak up directly by emailing [email protected] “Objections should be recorded by saying you disagree with the proposed restrictions in questions 13-17 of the online questionnaire and use the points raised above in your email,” says LARA.
The purpose of the review is to gauge public opinion, so it is important that all of us, as track users, have a say.
“Although it looks quite terrifying from the outside, experts from all active professional 4×4 and motorcycling organizations and their professional umbrella organizations are working together on this,” Lauren says. “Technical arguments are covered in detail by all of us, now we need users to talk about what’s important to them.”