A MASSIVE crack-down has been announced against the owners of 4 x 4 vehicles and trail motor bikes accused of causing extensive damage to ancient "green lanes" in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The lanes are centuries-old public rights of way, introduced before the invention of motor vehicles, and were intended for the use of local farmers and villagers going about their daily business.
But for the past decade or so, say officials of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, people have been driving off-road vehicles and bikes along the lanes for fun, churning up the grass surfaces so badly that, in some cases, even farm tractors can no longer use them.
This is hotly denied by the off-roaders - we have had dozens of messages to our Have your say column - but the Government has now given the park authority the legal right to crack down.
Police and YDNPA staff will be out in force over the winter in a crackdown on illegal off-roaders, it was announced yesterday. The aim of the campaign is to educate vehicle users about their rights and responsibilities when they go onto 'green lanes' according to park access officer Mark Allum.
"The main focus is to promote the message that vehicle users need to remember they are on-road even when they are off-road.," he went on. "Trail riding on 'green lanes' does not mean that you are 'off-road', and you are still subject to the same laws as on the surfaced road network.
"That means that, to be legal, you and your bike need a current licence, MOT and insurance, as well as road legal tyres, number plates and exhaust.
"The use of motor vehicles on the 'green lanes' of the Yorkshire Dales is an emotive issue and a source of complaint by residents and visitors alike. Irresponsible and illegal trail riding makes this situation worse. We are very pleased to be working with North Yorkshire Police to tackle this important local issue".