Byways and green lanes are open to all

Posted: 16th January 2019

Green LaneByways and green lanes are part of the English countryside, but walkers, equestrians and cyclists do not always live with off-road vehicles that are also entitled to use them. However, as a High Court case showed, they are generally open to all and access to them is protected by law.

A local authority used its powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to issue an order restricting vehicular access to byways in the area of the Stonehenge world heritage site. The order was made on an experimental basis – for a maximum of 18 months – so that the council could analyse its effects.

The council said that the order was prompted by concerns for the safety of walkers, horse riders and cyclists, and by an apparent increase in vehicles using the byways in the previous five years. Vehicle movements were also said to have caused damage to the byways, particularly during the summer solstice.

However, in upholding a judicial review challenge to the order brought by a pressure group dedicated to keeping green lanes open for use by off-road vehicles, the Court found that the council had failed to comply with the consultation requirements of the Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996.

The Court rejected claims that the pressure group had a legitimate expectation to be consulted before the order was adopted. However, the council had failed in its duty to consult the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association. The council’s obligation to consult the Chief Constable of Wiltshire had also not been met by the matter having been raised with a senior police officer in passing.

The pressure group’s plea that the order was not truly experimental was rejected and the Court accepted that there was a rational basis for its adoption. However, the lack of consultation was fatal and the order was quashed.