Motorcyclists battle for right to use Dorset ‘Green Lanes’

Posted: 28th June 2012

Dorset County Council is engaged in a High Court dispute in which motorcyclists are seeking the opening up of five ‘green lanes’ to off-road vehicles.
Countryside access group, the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF), wants the routes to be classified as Byways Open to All (BOATs), enabling them to be used by scrambler and quad bikes.
However, the Council refused the TRF’s applications to that effect in 2010 on grounds that the maps attached to the documents submitted were not of the right quality.
Seeking judicial review of the Council's decision at the High Court, lawyers representing the TRF argue that the Council's ‘technical objection’ to the applications ducked the issue of whether the routes should be open to all vehicles or instead classified as public paths closed to motorised traffic.
The Council took five years to deal with the applications to have the five lanes delineated as BOATs on the County's Definitive Map and Statement, from which other maps are produced.
Motor bike
The applications were heard at a meeting of the Council’s Rights of Way Committee in October 2010. The Committee recommended their refusal after finding that the maps attached to the applications had been produced by enlarging a 1/50,000-scale map to the requisite 1/25,000 scale.
The Council accepted that recommendation after finding that the plans should have been produced using 1/25,000-scale Ordnance Survey (OS) plans.
Calling for the Council’s decision to be quashed, Adrian Pay, representing the TDF, said: ‘(The maps) plainly showed the routes in question. The legislative requirements do not address themselves to the way in which such a map is derived, only to the end result.’

The Council maintains that it was right to refuse the applications, arguing that the precise geography of the routes was not adequately illustrated by the maps that were submitted.
George Laurence QC, representing the Council, said: ‘It made sense to prescribe that the accompanying map should be at a scale enabling applicants who chose to use an OS map to include a level of detail sufficient to ensure that, in most cases, physical features bounding tracks on the ground, or separating one parcel of land from another, would appear."
The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is also represented in the case as the issues touch upon her powers to review such decisions.
The case is being heard by Mr Justice Supperstone, who is expected to reserve his decision until a later date.