Highways bosses told they must do better on new off-road policy

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COUNTRYSIDE campaigners have attacked a new policy which aims to protect the Peak District from damage caused by off-road vehicles, saying it needs to be “bolder, fairer and clearer” to be effective.

Derbyshire County Council, which is responsible for highways within the national park, recently drew up a new policy which aims to govern the use of motorcycles and 4x4s on rural lanes and tracks.

The authority recently put plans out to a three-month public consultation, but Friends of the Peak District, a branch of the Campaign To Protect Rural England, said yesterday it does not go far enough.

John King, a spokesman for the pressure group, said the policy overhaul was welcomed by those with an interest in rural areas, but added that “firmer action” was still required on off-roading activities.

Mr King added: “We really welcome the fact that Derbyshire County Council is updating its off-roading policy.

“The damage caused by off-roaders on some routes in the county is ruining the environment and has become a very bad problem for people living in and visiting the Peak District.

“That said, we have some serious concerns about these revisions and think that they are not nearly bold enough.”

Friends of the Peak District has organised a series of events in the national park to promote its own Take Back the Tracks campaign, which was sparked by concerns about damage to lanes and danger to walkers.

That has also been supported by horse riding groups including Peak Horsepower, which was established in 2010 amid claims riders were excluded from some bridleways and byways as surfaces have been damaged by 4x4s and trail bikes, making them dangerous.

The revised policy under consultation says the authority intends to “protect opportunities for recreational driving where conflict with other types of use is kept to a minimum.”

It says that £70,000 has been set aside to improve some routes, of which £30,000 will be used within the Peak District national park.

But campaigners say that toom much emphasis is being placed on the rights of those who wish to drive off-road vehicles and not enough attention paid to other groups.

Mr King said: “The draft policy puts the rights of off-roaders way above the rights of other users including walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.

“This is wrong and needs changing. We also think the policy as it stands ignores the council’s duty to protect the environment - including the Peak District National Park - and this needs addressing too.

“Some of our most sensitive routes are under real threat from off-roading damage, and Derbyshire County Council already has the power to protect our landscapes by closing roads. We’d like to see some action now.

“We also think that it is important that the council works more closely with the Peak District National Park Authority, and supports the work it is doing protecting this special environment.”

Derbyshire County Council said it will consider bringing in traffic regulation orders (TROs) which ban certain types of vehicles from routes, where “no other reasonable solution exists” and “the safety of other users is compromised through use by vehicles.”

A spokesman for the authority said: “Our policy is a draft policy and we are currently asking all those involved for their views. We have worked closely with the Peak District National Park on this and will continue to do so.

“The county council has a responsibility to meet the needs of all users of the countryside – and our policy aims to do this.

“People can have their say on this important issue by visiting our website at www.derbyshire.gov.uk. The consultation closes on March 14.”