Club Zone

Per­mit­ted ac­cess pre­vents per­ma­nent clo­sure

LRO (UK) - - Contents -

Russ Brown’s grass­roots round-up

Last month I was sad to dis­cover a locked gate across a by­way that I first cy­cled down 50 years ago. Of­fley BOAT 20 is a very scenic trail link­ing Hert­ford­shire with Stop­s­ley in Bed­ford­shire.

It is so tame that I did my first green­lan­ing there in the 1970s in a J4 van. But this ease of ac­cess be­came its demise when it was tar­geted by fly­tip­pers.

A no­tice stated that the lane had been closed to mo­tor ve­hi­cles un­der an ‘Ex­per­i­men­tal Pro­hi­bi­tion of Driv­ing Or­der’ due to ‘an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour’. Ac­cess was still al­lowed for horses and walk­ers via a five-foot gap next to the gate. Even mo­tor­cy­cles had per­mis­sion to use it – the re­stric­tion was purely for mo­tor ve­hi­cles, though there was a dis­pen­sa­tion for per­mit hold­ers.

Some mem­bers of the lo­cal Beds, Herts and Cambs LRC were aware of the or­der and con­sid­ered it likely to be an­other lost lane, with ac­cess purely for lo­cal res­i­dents. I con­tacted Tom Gold­smith, the coun­try­side ac­cess of­fi­cer at Hert­ford­shire County Coun­cil to ex­plain that, for the less firm-of-foot, us­ing mo­torised trans­port was the only way of gain­ing ac­cess to the coun­try­side, and that the ben­e­fit of hav­ing re­spon­si­ble groups mon­i­tor­ing the lanes was re­port­ing any abuse of them. I sug­gested per­mits and lock codes should be granted to recog­nised club of­fi­cers to give their groups ac­cess to the by­way.

I re­ceived a pos­i­tive re­ply, although the so­lu­tion was not as sim­ple as I sug­gested. Ev­ery­one who wanted to drive the lane had to ap­ply in­di­vid­u­ally, giv­ing the regis­tra­tion num­ber of the ve­hi­cle they will be driv­ing.

The club was also re­quired to show ev­i­dence of its rules and af­fil­i­a­tions, then per­mits and lock codes were duly is­sued. So, with per­mit in hand, I joined BHCLRC’S green lanes of­fi­cer, Ian Ste­wart, and club mem­ber Dick Greaves to drive it, only to dis­cover that the locks had been stolen. Tom as­sures me they will be re­placed by the time you read this.

Ian com­ments: ‘This is a sen­si­ble al­ter­na­tive to per­ma­nent clo­sure and pro­vides lo­cal au­thor­i­ties with a way for­ward.’

The Green Lanes As­so­ci­a­tion’s (GLASS) deputy chair­man, Chris Mitchell, adds: ’This is a win-win sit­u­a­tion which il­lus­trates the value of sen­si­ble ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween re­spon­si­ble users and coun­cils. GLASS sup­ports per­mit schemes, where ap­pro­pri­ate, for lanes where there are prob­lems.’

So, is per­mit­ted ac­cess the way to pro­tect our by­ways? In some cases it may well be the last op­tion on lanes that are blighted by the an­ti­so­cial. It is cer­tainly an al­ter­na­tive lo­cal au­thor­i­ties should con­sider be­fore clo­sure. It will also add value to be­ing a mem­ber of a club, or af­fil­i­ated to an or­gan­i­sa­tion such as GLASS.

Fly­tip­ping led to this clo­sure

BHCLRC feared an­other lost lane

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