Legal access to recreational green laning may be under threat following a government proposal to the public which includes the option to restrict access via legislation.
In January 2022, the government published their response to the Landscapes Review carried out by the Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), sparking concerns that the currently legal access to Britain’s minor road network may be drastically reduced.
The DEFRA consultation on implementing this review, which is open for the public to respond to until 9th April, asks whether legislation should be put in place to restrict recreational motor vehicles using unsealed and unclassified roads (a.k.a. green lanes and single-track rural lanes) across the country.
Impact for green lane driving
The Green Lane Association (GLASS) has expressed deep concern that the proposed changes could have hugely detrimental effects on the ability of responsible green laners to participate in the sport and is urging its members and interested parties to respond to the consultation.
We share GLASS’ concern that a sweeping change in access to country public rights of way and unsealed roads, aka ‘green lanes’, would negatively affect those who are using lanes legitimately and associated industries.
The landscapes review and proposals in more detail
In 2019, DEFRA released an independent Landscapes Review into National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This was a comprehensive report on the welfare of rural areas in Britain and the potential problems these areas face.
The Government then published a response to the review, asking the public to comment on their proposals for its implementation. While the landscapes review itself made no direct mention of green lane or unsealed road use, the government response addressed it directly, stating:
‘We have become increasingly aware of damage and disturbance caused by excessive use of off-road motor vehicles on some unsealed routes. This can result in impacts on local wildlife, the special qualities of an area e.g., tranquillity, and make the route less accessible for other users such as those on foot, bicycles, horseback, or in vehicles used by disabled people. In protected landscapes, these impacts could undermine the statutory purposes of the area.’
While the government do recognise that ‘many people enjoy using motor vehicles responsibly on green lanes without causing damage or disturbance’, they are proposing two options which may nonetheless threaten green laning practices for law-abiding users:
- Giving greater discretion for National Park Authorities and local highway authorities to use existing powers to restrict use on a case-by-case basis
- Restricting the use of certain motor vehicles on unsealed roads through legislation, but only if this could carefully balance the needs of all users including motorised vehicle users, horse riders, cyclists and walkers, whilst also protecting private access rights
Public able to respond until 9th April
As stated by GLASS, the fact that the government has explicitly targeted motorised used could be of some concern. DEFRA has opened up a public consultation on the matter, which will be open until 9th April 2022. The consultation will give everyone – green laners and non-green laners alike – a chance to give their opinion on whether motorised access to green lanes and the minor road network should be restricted – or even banned.
GLASS is calling all their members to take part in the consultation and make their voices heard by filling in the consultation questionnaire. For users who would prefer to email their response to DEFRA, GLASS has also outlined the best way to frame an email.
Many of our customers enjoy green lane driving and do so carefully, legally and with due consideration for the environment. Organisations such as the Green Lane Association work hard not just to provide guidance on responsible laning, but put their money where their mouth is, fundraising to repair lanes damaged not usually by drivers but by flood, subsidence and other natural wear and tear.
While we accept that motorised vehicles can cause damage, restriction via legislation without considering the nuances of time and place, the effect on UK tourism and locals who enjoy rural areas with the help of motorised transport, and other responsible users, seems drastic.
There is also the economic impact as there are many businesses in the UK providing and fitting high quality equipment such as winches, snorkels and other modifications to vehicles to make them suitable for green lane driving, which would suffer by this restriction.
We would urge the government to exercise restraint and not to legislate against green laning, but rather to work with organisations like GLASS and other bodies to educate the public on responsible use of these public rights of way.