The Tilberthwaite Road track in the Lake District. Photo: Chris Heaton CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Tilberthwaite Road track in the Lake District. Photo: Chris Heaton CC-BY-SA-2.0

Campaigners said they are disappointed the national park authority decided not to ban motor vehicles from two unsurfaced lanes in the Lake District.

The authority’s rights of way committee decided to leave Tilberthwaite Road and High Oxen Fell Road as they are, and form a group with interested parties to monitor use of the former and its condition.

The National Trust, Ramblers, Save the Lake District Campaign and Friends of the Lake District pressed the committee to introduce a traffic order that would have prevented recreational 4×4s and trail bikes using the routes, which run between the A593 Coniston road and Little Langdale.

The trust owns land bordering the green lanes, but the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria County Council are responsible for the tracks themselves. The authority’s officer recommended against beginning the process to ban motor traffic, and the committee voted in line with his recommendation. About 60 members of the public were present at the meeting on Tuesday.

The park authority said it will now create a partnership management group of invited key partners and stakeholders to work collaboratively to monitor usage and condition, undertaking necessary activities to help mitigate any new issues that may arise on the Tilberthwaite Road, the longer of the two routes which runs from Hodge Close north to Fell Foot in Little Langdale.

It will work with the National Trust to monitor the condition of the track from High Oxen Fell to Hodge Close. It will recommend that the county council maintains the surface in its present condition.

Friends of the Lake District said: “We are very disappointed at this decision.

“The voluntary management approach has been used for a number of years and has, in our view, failed. Both routes are classified as red under the current system which indicates that they are busy and sites where potential conflicts will is likely to occur.

“The park authority has failed to put the conservation of the natural beauty of the area first.”

The National Trust said: “We look after over 20 per cent of the Lake District national park, including land on either side of the unclassified road running between Tilberthwaite Farm and Little Langdale.

“The road itself is the responsibility of Cumbria County Council, and is being looked after by the Lake District National Park Authority on the council’s behalf. We have no authority to control the use of this road.

“We take a wide view – as a major landowner and landlord, a membership and conservation charity and as a key member of the Lake District National Park Partnership.

“We believe that [multi-purpose vehicle] use is damaging and should be regulated by a traffic regulation order at Tilberthwaite and High Oxen Fell.

“We know that opinions differ, and a wide range of evidence is being considered. But we think the report’s recommendations are based on an incomplete understanding of three fundamental principles that lie at the heart of managing the Lake District national park.

“These are: landscape character; the Sandford principle and the outstanding universal value of the world heritage site.

“These principles help national parks find the right balance between conservation and recreation and protect what is important. They are also key to qualifying for a TRO. In particular, we think that the most recent technical expert advice was not followed in carrying out the assessment of the impact on outstanding universal value.

“The Sandford principle says if there is a conflict between protecting the environment and people’s enjoyment of it, that can’t be resolved by management, then protecting the environment is more important.

“Describing these remote valleys as honeypot sites – on a par with Windermere and Bowness, shows a lack of understanding of landscape character.”

The committee also heard submissions in support of continued use of the two routes by motor vehicles from recreational user groups and a commercial 4×4 operator. It also heard from farmers that they are unable to access their land easily or safely and that farming in the area was becoming unviable. Increased use by recreational vehicles, combined with severe weather that had damaged the surface, were cited as reasons for this. The national park authority has recently repaired the Tilberthwaite Road route.

It said: “We have no formally adopted policy or aim with regard to motor vehicular use of unsealed roads.

“In the past we were key partners in the trails management advisory group, and our generally stated view was that while we would prefer recreational green road driving not to take place, we also accept that there is a legal right for this activity taking place on the 120km (approximate) of roads open to them.

“This is about 3.7 per cent of the linear network (3,280km) which is all available to walkers, with smaller percentages open to cyclists and horse-riders. Our view is that it would be unnecessarily discriminatory to arbitrarily ban such legal usage.”

An online petition asking the authority to ban motor vehicles on the route attracted 305,000 supporters while a petition in favour of keeping the routes open to MPVs had 8,500 signatures.

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