YORKSHIRE DALES lanes damaged through the irresponsible use of off-road vehicles have won some respite as a new law regarding the use of rights of way by motorised vehicles came into force yesterday.
Provisions in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act will significantly curtail the scope for adding further public rights of way for motor vehicles - known as byways open to all traffic (BOATs) - to the local highway authorities' legal record of public rights of way, known as the definitive map.
Mastilles lane damaged by off-road vehicles
Commenting on the new provisions, Rural Affairs Minister, Jim Knight, said:
"The Government is delivering our commitment to curtail the inappropriate use of green lanes and ancient ways by motor vehicles, by putting an end to claims for motor vehicular use of them on the basis of historical use, and evidence of that use, by horse-drawn vehicles, as soon possible.
"Some of the worst damage is happening in our National Parks, which is why we have given National Park Authorities the power to make Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO's), to commence later this year."
TRO's have been in force on a number of Yorkshire Dales lanes - including on Mastilles Lane between Malham and Kilnsey - for some time, banning all motorised traffic except those vehicles used for agricultural purposes.
As well as preventing use by motor vehicles giving rise to any kind of public right of way, the new provisions will also remove the vast majority of unrecorded public rights of way for motor vehicles, so that they cannot then be claimed as BOATs under the fundamental legal principal 'once a highway, always a highway'.
A new category of right of way, called a 'restricted byway is being introduced by the new law. It enables ways where vehicular rights have been acquired by non-motorised vehicles, such as horse-drawn vehicles, to be recorded as restricted byways rather than BOATs. The aim is to ensure that the future use of these rights of way will be consistent with their history.
Restricted byways can be used by pedestrians, horse-riders, cyclists, and those who wish to use them with a horse and cart.
Now that the provisions are in force it has become an offence under the 1988 Road Traffic Act to drive a motorised vehicle on a restricted byway except in certain circumstances where the Act provides for a private right of way for people to access their land and property.
Mr Knight continued: "We must ensure that our green lanes, ancient ways and rights of way are protected for the enjoyment of everyone who use these important parts of our countryside, now and in the future."