Protestors battle to preserve a country track

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DEFIANT campaigners determined to protect a Peak District countryside route from 4x4 off-roaders are urging council chiefs to reconsider their decision to formally allow motorists to use it.

Friends of the Peak District (FPD) revealed Derbyshire County Council has announced that Long Causeway, at Stanage, is to be classified as a Byway Open to All Traffic.

The former packhorse route was unclassified, according to FPD, and has been a legitimate track for motorists but campaigners hoped a Traffic Regulation Order ban on off-roaders would be imposed.

An FPD spokesman said: “We want this changing because 4x4 drivers and trail bikers are ripping up this lane and ruining the peace.”

FPD had held a rally urging the county council and Peak District National Park Authority to ban off-roaders from tracks.

The group is also lobbying the county council to ban off-roaders from Bradley Lane, at Pilsley, and School Lane, at Great Hucklow.

A spokeswoman for Derbyshire County Council said: “Long Causeway was designated a byway open to all traffic in March.

“We’ve since received a request to make a traffic regulation order banning vehicles along the route which will be considered in line with the normal procedure.”

Long Causeway is one of 27 green lanes identified by the Peak District National Park (PDNP) Authority as being in most urgent need of management and an action plan has been drawn up for it which can be seen at www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/priorityroutes.

A PDNP spokesman said: “We will be consulting the public on options for vehicle regulation on it this summer.

“On some less-used routes the classification of a BOAT leads to an increase in motorised traffic, but the Long Causeway is already well used by vehicles, horse-riders and cyclists, so the public should not notice any difference.”

Sean Prendergast, PDNP’s head of field services, explained the BOAT (Byway Open to All Traffic) classification is really just a legal technicality in as much as it is classifying what was previously an unclassified highway.

He said: “The decision is reached usually by a public inquiry that on a balance of probabilities at some time in the past a route was used by vehicles and that this use, however infrequent, was by the public believing themselves to have a ‘right’ to do so. “It is not a management solution for the route nor is it a statement of what the route should be used for.

“If an ancient route starts to have more traffic than it was intended for and starts to deteriorate then the agencies responsible for its management have to act.

“If the physical management needed starts to detrimentally affect it so much as to alter the whole characteristics of the route then some form of restricting that use is perfectly valid, particularly where the type of user is significantly different from the original designation such as 4x4s or trail bikes versus horse drawn vehicles.

“However, to do such a restriction which will be legally binding, you must first determine the legal status of any route upon which you intend to implement that binding order.

“If it is already recorded for example as a BOAT, then no problem, but if it is unclassified it is much more difficult.”