Trail riders and drivers angry at attempts by the Peak District National Park Authority’s (PDNPA) plan to close Chapel Gate, an historic road in the park, are to descend onto the Authority’s offices in force when it debates the issue on 25 January. A spokesman for the protest organisers, Peak & Derbyshire Vehicle User Group, said, 'The PDNPA has already wasted tens of thousands of pounds defending a spurious ‘Experimental Traffic Regulation Order’ banning motorised use of Chapel Gate. PDNPA was taken to court by one of our member clubs, the Trail Riders Fellowship, click here for TRF , and the judge ruled that the ETRO was illegal, as no ‘experiment’ was in fact taking place.'
The judge’s ruling states, 'It is impossible to discern from the Statement of Reasons what that experiment might be. The experiment which I discern from the Statement of Reasons has no rational basis… the experiment described can clearly be seen to be no experiment at all. The NPA Press Release announcing the public consultation does not suggest an experiment as described in the officer's report. On that basis, the officer's report cannot be admitted to contradict the Statement of Reasons without revealing a further unlawfulness, in the failure to consult adequately. I do not think that consultees would have appreciated the nature of the experiment from the Statement of Reasons, which is where they should be entitled to look. For those reasons, I quash the Order. The NPA will have had fifteen months in which to gather the data it sought. The NPA cannot move to make the Order permanent without going through the full TRO procedure.'
Incredibly, the PDNPA appears to have not understood the ruling, claiming in a press release dated November 30, that the judge had rejected the TRF arguments that the Order was not a genuine experiment and was irrational and unlawful, and that the PDNPA had lost on a technicality. And, even more incredibly, the PDNPA now appears determined to introduce a blanket ban on all motor vehicles using the road, for reasons that are neither clear nor rational, citinciting damage done by walkers on surrounding ‘right to roam’ land as justification for closing the road itself to motors!
The Peak & Derbyshire Vehicle Users Group spokesman said, 'There are plenty of examples of walkers damaging right to roam land in the park without the presence of a nearby vehicular right of way, with Kinder Scout being a good example. This damage will no doubt continue with or without the passage of the occasional vehicle on the road until more is done to educate walkers as to their responsibilities. So it is really hard to discern any motive for this action, other than spite. It would appear that PDNPA is pursuing a vendetta against lawful motorists, who pay road tax, fuel duty and insurance premium tax to be able to use the Park’s road network. We would like to know if these unelected but powerful individuals are acting for their own reasons, or whether their strings are being pulled by others. We are going to use the PDNPA’s Audit, Resources and Performance Committee where they plan to put forward proposals for a total ban on motors, to raise important questions about the motivation for these measures and their cost to the public. Our Group is prepared to work with the PDNPA and other stakeholders to produce a constructive policy for the future of the Park’s historic road network. We are prepared to continue with our efforts to educate all classes of user and give up our own time to maintain the network. If, however, the PDNPA is not prepared to engage with us in a constructive manner we will throw our full weight into opposing them. The recent court case means that they are already one-nil (and at least £20,000) down, and they are going to have to pay the TRF’s costs. We are offering them a last opportunity for an equitable solution. Our presence in strength at the January 25 meeting should serve as a warning to them as to the reserves that we can draw upon should they decide to continue with their policy of confrontation.'
The Peak & Derbyshire Vehicle User Group is an alliance of local and national motoring and motorcycling clubs. Its members include the Trail Riders Fellowship, which won the recent High Court challenge to the PDNPA’s illegal Experimental Traffic Regulation Order. The protesters are not off-roaders, but motorists and motorcyclists who enjoy driving the unsurfaced roads of Derbyshire and the Peaks.
click here for full events listing