Maintenance of a damaged greenway in Leicestershire had only just started, when further destruction by drivers not respecting a temporary closure resulted in an increase in the costs and schedule of the project. The ‘Spring Lane’ road near Packington, part of which is a residential street, has been at the center of a long-standing conflict between 4×4 users, landowners, walkers and riders.
The latest damage underscores how even minor incursions can have major consequences for land management. The original project, which included resurfacing and improved drainage, was expected to complete the track’s TRO (Traffic Control Order) in time for Christmas, but further damage in December resulted in an estimated cost increase of 5,000. to £ 10,000. In addition to spending two days fixing what had already been done, the contractor had to put up barriers at around £ 250 each (excluding labor), deliver the stone early to block the road and incur costs of additional delivery for machines. Leicestershire Police are now using CCTV to monitor the lane.
If time permits, it is hoped that the project will be completed by the end of January. The Green Lane Association (GLASS) is contributing around £ 10,000 to the total cost, with the remaining £ 30,000 coming from the Leicestershire Council.
Much of the additional cost came from factory delivery requirements
A long effort
The recent damage has been frustrating for GLASS CEO Lauren Eaton, who has been negotiating on behalf of track users since October 2020.
“It was a pretty emotional situation, with tremendous animosity towards 4×4 drivers,” Lauren told LRO. “We had complaints from residents to our team of regional representatives. Everyone wanted to shut it down, including locals, police and the council’s ‘security partnership’, but there was very little understanding of rights of way, so I had to give examples of other projects on. which we had worked on.
“I explained that lack of maintenance is what attracts the wrong kind of people to a lane, people who think ‘nobody cares, so why should we? “. At this point it was really rough terrain, with a “bomb hole” that needed a lot of drainage, so people would come here to use winches and drive it at night.
“I also explained that it can be costly to close a lane, especially if there is opposition to the initial public consultation. The track would still need to be repaired, and if it was closed GLASS would no longer be there to defend the owners and users of the land. ‘
Although Lauren was successful in campaigning to keep the way open, repairs still hadn’t started six months later, prompting her to notify Leicestershire County Council under Section 56 of the law on highways. The Council responded by giving responsibility for the project to GLASS.
This is the first time that GLASS has been directly mandated by a local authority to supervise maintenance work from start to finish. “Our plans are sent to the board for approval,” says Lauren. “It makes things so much faster and cheaper for everyone. We bought materials that were much cheaper than the council could have done on their own. The work at Packington is carried out by Anytime Plan Hire and Groundwork.
Local GLASS representative Steve Wilds illustrates the scale of the problem on the Leicestershire Greenway
The bigger picture
The violation of TRO and the destructive use of 4x4s on delicate greenways poses a real threat to the future of greenway use in the UK. Speaking of the most recent damage to the Packington Track, Lauren said: “My concern is that while it’s great that the anti-4×4 people are supporting GLASS, it hasn’t done much for the reputation of the 4×4 community in general. ‘
The Association, whose membership has grown from 700 to 6,000 over the past five years, closed 11 disputes in 2021, its highest level on record. However, the Association hopes that this number will decrease in the years to come, thanks to better engagement with interested parties.
“Clubs are our daily bread, but big companies are contacting us now, including two big manufacturers. We have had four police forces who have come forward to request training, so we are considering setting up a more formal training structure.