Permitted access prevents permanent closure
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