Late last year, as a result of discussions with all interested parties regarding so-called 'sensitive routes', the Peak District National Park Authority submitted a formal request for voluntary restraint (VR) to the GLASS Peak Park local rep, Richard Entwistle. The request concerned Minninglow Lane and Gallowgate Lane, a non-classified highway from grid ref SK197 576 to SK222 565. The lane is a natural surfaced enclosure which has relatively low vehicle use (around 60 per month). The lane has become rutted over recent years and the local landowner had recently repaired the lane. PDNPA requested that the lane should be subject to a voluntary restraint for the period 1 November 2010 to 1 May 2011 to ensure that the lane was not damaged over the winter, and to maximise the growth of vegetation during the Spring of 2011, which would hopefully bind the surface and establish a good base for continued use. The situation would then be assessed with members of PDVUG (GLASS and TRF) in early May 2011 to ascertain the success of the winter restraint and a review of the situation would then be carried out. PDNPA staff would erect and maintain signs at the ends of the lane on the same substantial wooden posts they are deploying elsewhere in the Peak District with the 'multi-user' route information signs, and written authority to do so was obtained from the Highway Authority.
The restraint was duly agreed by motoring groups and LARA, vehicle counters were installed on the lane, and a press release was issued to publicise the VR and to demonstrate the collaboration between the PDNP and users. In March 2011, a PDNPA newsletter said, 'We would like to thank users for the restraint shown from using this route while repairs are given the winter to bed in, only two users drove vehicles on this route during the last counted month and these may have been farming vehicles. The restraint shown here and at other sites is a clear indication that voluntary restraint is a feasible option at some locations.'
In June 2011, the same PDNPA Newsletter stated, 'This voluntary restraint has now ended. Thank you to all users who refrained from using this route over the winter and spring. Vehicle use fell by
almost 70% during the period and as a consequence the route has
improved. Signs about the restraint have now been removed from the site. Thanks to members of the Peak and Derbyshire Vehicle User Group for their help in advertising this restraint and to local farmers Mr Edge and Mr Cooper for their help with the improvement works and during the closure itself.'
So for those who don’t think VR works, I would point you to the PDNPA message of thanks received on 17th June, which said, 'In relation to Minninglow Lane, can I first thank you for helping organise
that, and can you also pass on my thanks to PDVUG Members for their support. The lane’s use fell by 66% over the winter and it does show on the ground, I think Mike Rhodes was saying that there was some concern amongst members that it could not be enforced but this gives us a useful idea of the success rate of this approach.'
The use of voluntary restraint as a method of protecting sensitive routes is a far better and fairer method of managing vehicle use than the 'all or nothing' TRO which local authorities and anti-motorist pressure groups tend to prefer. The Peak Park ROW people are to be congratulated for their consideration of the use of this method. As we have seen with Chapel Gate, which has a proposed TRO banning all motor vehicles for 18 months, it isn’t the only tactic in their toolbox, so we need to be careful not just to constantly oppose, but to suggest VR where it might help. Chris Mitchell, GLASS Derbyshire Rep.