Park authority agree to temporary exclusion for bikes and 4x4s

THE Peak District National Park Authority is to temporarily exclude trail-bikes, quad-bikes and 4x4s from Chapel Gate, a country track between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Edale.

The Authority’s audit, resources and performance committee have approved an experimental 18-month Traffic Regulation Order after officials advised it as a last resort to halt further severe environmental damage to the 3km route near Rushup Edge.

The route crosses a landscape of the highest international importance for its wildlife and natural beauty - it is a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

But deep ruts, mud, water and exposed rocks are now deterring walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, and erosion has widened up to 12 metres as people deviate onto surrounding land with fragile wildlife habitats.

Although Chapel Gate is a centuries-old public highway, officially designated a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT), the committee heard that the environmental harm was so great that a respite was needed from motorised traffic.

Committee chair Christopher Pennell said: “We agree that time is needed for the landscape to recover and to establish whether that recovery is sustained over two growing seasons with motorised traffic excluded.”

People who spoke in support of the 18-month ban were representing the Peak District Green Lane Alliance, Peak Horsepower, the Forum for Ancient Byways, Rocking the BOAT (action group), and the Peak District Local Access Forum, an independent advisory group of walkers, climbers, cyclists, horse-riders and motorised users, which originally recommended the measure. No member of the public spoke against.

A six-week public consultation earlier this year resulted in 309 responses in favour of a temporary ban, and 207 against.

People in favour were concerned about danger, ecological damage, erosion, disturbance to wildness and tranquillity, pollution (noise and emissions), water run-off, and impact on agricultural access.

Those against argued that lack of maintenance had caused the current state of the route; motorised traffic was not the only cause; there were few legal “off-road” routes available to them; riders came from all over the country to ride Chapel Gate; they too wanted to experience wildness; riders were being unfairly discriminated against, and a ban would put pressure on other routes.

Access and rights of way manager Mike Rhodes said: “We are working hard to maintain a positive relationship with responsible recreational motor-users and we value the contribution of the Peak and Derbyshire Vehicle User Group in educating and informing drivers and riders.”

This umbrella group takes part in volunteer work parties and in joint Operation Blackbrook days with the police and national park rangers, talking to users at popular “off-roading” spots, offering leaflets and information.

The ban will come into force when a current Derbyshire County Council closure for repairs comes to an end, and will then last for 18 months.

This is the Authority’s first experimental Traffic Regulation Order of this kind. The committee’s support for it was unanimous apart from one abstention.