Landmark court decision keeps engines off Twyford Down

Restricted byways protected for non-motorised use

A recent decision by the Court of Appeal has effectively stopped an application by motor users to be allowed on off-road tracks across Hampshire’s Twyford Down.

Some of the tracks in question were classified as ‘restricted byways’, normally open to cyclists, walkers and horseriders and not motor vehicles.

The Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) successfully applied to the county council to allow motorized use. In a case brought by landowners Winchester College and Humphrey Feeds Ltd, the High Court upheld the county council decision.

The Court of Appeal overturned that decision, however, judging that the applications did not meet the qualifications for upgrading under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

That quashes any hope of success for the TRF in this case, and by implication many hundreds of similar claims made by motor groups throughout the country.

Speaking to BikeRadar, Dave Tilbury of the Trail Riders Fellowship said, “This decision raises the bar for those seeking to upgrade restricted byways to byways open to all traffic.”

Richard George, campaigns manager for the Cyclists’ Touring Club, told BikeRadar, “The feedback we get from most of our members is that they go to the countryside and ride on green lanes and the like to get away from noise and vehicles and to feel safe with their families. So, although there may be some green lanes suitable for motor vehicle use, we support the general principle behind the recent laws that have restricted motor access.”

The CTC was instrumental in influencing the 2006 legislation and ensured that historic use by cyclists of a track or path can be considered by the courts when considering whether to upgrade it to a restricted byway. The CTC has been directly involved in several such cases.

While this is a Byzantinely complex area of law and the case itself turned on a technicality, the decision could have implications for other similar cases where a similar procedure in filing evidence was followed.

It comes after events of recent years have seen moves on several fronts to restrict motorized use of green lanes and tracks. At one time byways were open to motor vehicles as a general rule. In 2000 legislation introduced ‘restricted byways’ still open to cyclists but not to motor vehicles.

The 2006 Act was intended to extinguish historic vehicle-use rights for green lanes that had long fallen into disuse, according to Knights Solicitors who acted for the landowners at the Court of Appeal.

That provision made it far less practical to apply for a restricted byway to be upgraded for. This latest decision is a further blow to attempts by the motor access lobby to gain further access to green lanes and tracks.

Twyford Down itself is known as a local beauty spot because of its rolling chalk meadowlands and was the centre of protests throughout the 1990’s against the M3 cutting through the area.

Bikeradar has also recently reported on the closure of green lanes in another area renowned for its landscape, the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

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