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Peak Park Authority propose Experimental TRO


David Sparkes
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A 'PR' release put out by the Peak Authority. - PR 724 - 10 December 2010

Views invited on proposed “green lane” restrictions.

The Peak District National Park Authority wants to hear people’s views on a proposed temporary ban that would stop 4x4s and trail-bikes using a picturesque “green lane.”

The Authority has launched a six-week consultation on its first proposed Experimental Traffic Order, which would exclude motorised traffic from Chapel Gate, a 3km track which skirts Rushup Edge, a high ridge between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Edale.

The trial would last for 18 months, giving time for repairs and recovery, and for the Authority to assess its success in conserving the national park landscape. After that it may decide to make the ban permanent, or to extend the trial, or to discontinue it.

Rights of way manager Mike Rhodes said: “Chapel Gate is officially classified by the Highway Authority as a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT), which makes it a legal route for 4x4s and trail-bikes. But it is now in a shocking state, with deep ruts, erosion and water damage.

“We have taken advice from the independent Peak District Local Access Forum which recommended temporary restrictions as a last resort after other options had been explored. The Authority has the power to make such orders to conserve the natural beauty and tranquillity of the landscape, and we believe that the conservation issues may outweigh the route’s recreational use by 4x4s and trail-bikes.”

The Authority is seeking responses from a wide range of organisations, including the Peak District Vehicle User Group which represents responsible 4x4 and trail-bike riders, as well as the Ramblers, Friends of the Peak District, the British Horse Society, Cyclists Touring Club, Byways and Bridleways Trust, Country Land and Business Association, parish and district councils, highways authorities and emergency services.

Anyone interested may respond by January 28 - details are available on www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/chapelgate or call 01629 816200. A decision is expected shortly afterwards in the light of the feedback.

The Authority, Police and Peak District Vehicle User Group co-operate on Operation Blackbrook, an information and enforcement campaign persuading 4x4 and trail-bike riders to act responsibly and keep to legal tracks - visit www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/vehicles or www.treadlightly-uk.org

-end-

Media inquiries to: Barbara Crossley, communications officer, Peak District National Park Authority, barbara.crossley@peakdistrict.gov.uk or 01629 816389.

Pics attached: 1) Trail-bike riders on Chapel Gate 2) Deep ruts, mud and water impede cyclists and walkers on Chapel Gate

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Does GLASS offer any advice on how best to respond to this?

Should we suggest a winter-TRO as an alternative to allow the lane to recover, or to oppose it as vehemently as the Ramblers etc will endorse it, and let the authorities balance the two arguments?

Answering your second point first, the nature of the ground is such that the route will never recover if left ONLY to it's own devices.

Neglect of the drainage has led to such a severe problem developing that it will take a large amount of money to repair. The Peak Park will be able to spread their budget much further if they can 'lose' the most expensive route. You can see the management argument that applies today, and can see that the management are not neutrally balanced. We have to fight them and the RA.

GLASS can be a broad church at times, with differing viewpoints expressed, from the extreme (I'll say no more) to the 'we're all doomed' variety.

I'm not sure there is a national viewpoint expressed, possibly because if people write in and mention an organisation name the contributions are piled together, so 10 objections by GLASS members counts as ONE objection. Thus no-one wants a standard reply to be created.

Probably the best leads comes from the local activists, and of course I'm on dicey ground if I repeat posts sent to local private / closed to member mailing lists.

When you write, do so as an individual, NEVER mention that you are a member of any organisation.

Some unattributed extracts:

"You need to move fast and get a Civil Engineers report. 'A known name could be' considered biased as 'their' positions will be well known. 'A known name could' come up if necessary to meet whoever does it. A retired County Surveyor would be ideal. Otherwise a big Consultancy name like Atkins. Maybe a Forestry engineer??

Don’t wait until it gets into the Council process, we made that mistake on Wychenford. The downright lies need to be dealt with straight up front.

It (an unbiased report) will say the cause is neglect of the drainage system, not use by vehicles, neglect to an extent that is seriously negligent. Go right for the jugular this time."

"Please feel free to plagiarise or pick up on any of the themes if it helps anyone to construct another letter."

"I wish to object to and offer comments on the proposed experimental TRO on Chapel Gate as detailed at http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/chapelgate.

My primary observation is that the main cause of damage to the route has been water erosion and a total lack of maintenance over many years by the Highway Authority amounting to a serious neglect of its statutory duty. This irrefutable because the route was readily and easily drivable by very modest vehicles up until about 5 years ago. The vehicle user groups have made repeated offers to assist the Highway Authority to repair and maintain this route, but the offers have never been accepted. It could be construed that the TRO is being proposed partly to absolve the Highway Authority of its duty to repair and maintain the BOAT appropriate to all classes of user. This is not a legal use of a TRO and would leave the National Park Authority open to legal challenge.

Additionally, there are several points of contention in the National Park Authority’s documentation. The route is described in 3 sections in the Assessment of Ecological Impacts; however, there a number of anomalies and inaccuracies in the assessment, as follows. The Assessment states:

A. From the gate on A625 to the boundary of open country at SK09928292 (0.7 km) This section runs uphill between two steep banks. The surface has been degraded and is loose, stony and worn down to the bedrock in places. At one point there is a series of low ‘steps’ where thin rock strata have been exposed. These make passage by cycles and motorcycles more difficult and encourage use of alternatives. Water flows down the line of the track, adding to erosion of the track bed. A foot route has developed on top of the bank on the southside, and shows as a narrow, bare strip. There are signs that bikes and motor bikes are also now using this foot way to avoid the uneven and broken parts of the track itself. Such use can be expected to increase as the surface deteriorates further under continued vehicle use and the effects of water erosion.

This description is misleading and inaccurate, insofar as the surface has not been degraded. The surface is the natural bedrock of a sunken lane in this locality, which provides (and has provided for many years) a very durable surface for all users. The nature of this section is entirely in keeping, both visually and geologically, with the area and the many similar, rocky footpaths in the Kinder region. The hard, stable track bed is well able to accommodate the water flows and all users.

The “uneven” track bed is not a deterrent to walkers or cyclists. It is entirely natural, and its nature is very the reason people chose to use the route. However, many walkers do not wish to be in the confines of the lane and stray to the sides or walk over the adjoining land. The “foot route” on top of the bank exists because walkers chose the more open aspect, not because they are avoiding the surface of the lane. The inference of the assessment is that the Authority proposes to fill between the banks, in some fashion, to cover the bedrock and so create an unsustainable and unnatural route, which is clearly nonsense.

B. From the boundary of open country to the public footpath at SK09908345 (0.6 km)

This section runs through unfenced moorland over the western end of Rushup Edge. Most of the track runs on a fairly firm, sandy surface containing some wet patches and puddles. Parallel to the track on the eastern side are two deep wheel ruts cut into the peat where a vehicle or vehicles sought an alternative route. At the highest point, there is an extensive waterlogged section with deep puddles and pools on the main track. These have been bypassed on each side by people on foot, cycle and motor cycle with the result that the boggy trampled section has extended outwards and reaches a width of 12m. Further widening of the degraded area can be expected with continued use.

The Authority did not appear to survey the route very carefully on this section. The description of “Parallel to the track on the eastern side are two deep wheel ruts cut into the peat where a vehicle or vehicles sought an alternative route.” has missed the fact that this is the original line of the route and that the surface at the bottom of the ruts is hard and sustainable. The situation is that walkers, over many years, have strayed to the north western side and it is they who have created the parallel route on what they saw as higher and drier land. Over time, vehicles followed them, creating the apparent route in its current form. Reversion to the original line would solve the problem of the “boggy trampled section”.

C. From the PF to the lower gate at SK10698405 (0.95 km)

This section runs diagonally down the northern side of Rushup Edge. An informal footpath has developed along the north (downslope) bank. Damage to this section is very severe, especially over the lower 0.7 km, due to the combined effects of vehicle use and water erosion, resulting in extensive degradation to the track surface, increasing damage to the footpath and disruption to the natural hydrology. The track here was previously surfaced with metalling/hard core to a depth of approximately 30 cm. This hard surface has been almost completely destroyed, with only a few fragments remaining along the edge or as isolated patches standing proud of the current surface.

Undeniably, this section is badly damaged, but the main contributor is water erosion and the effect has been compounded, year on year, by a total lack of maintenance for over 15 years. The depth of the channels and simple observations on any wet day clearly indicate this. The few plastic drainage pipes laid crudely across the track at intervals have proved hopelessly ineffective.

There is reference to the hard surface having been destroyed, but the assessment carefully avoids mentioning that the surface was asphalt, which was in place on this route for many years, and its presence clearly conflicts with the Authority’s extensive and emotive references to amenity, wilderness and remoteness. If repair is seriously being contemplated, then the question arises: would the asphalt surface be replaced to maintain the route’s former character? Furthermore, if this particular surface had been maintained, then there would be no need for any of this process.

Moving on to the Statement of Reason, it is clearly evident from the tone and content that the Authority’s intention is to close the route permanently for motor vehicles and not to affect an appropriate repair. Apart from the wistful descriptions of wilderness, which seem at odds with the immediate presence of through roads, railway lines, disused quarries, farmers’ vehicles and the passage of aircraft into Manchester Airport , there is no reference to any reconstruction plan. Indeed, the statement is made: “The Authority believes preservation of the amenity and conservation of the natural beauty of the route outweighs recreational motor vehicular use of the route…” and is followed by, “On balance the Authority proposes to make a full-time 18 month Experimental Traffic Order for preserving and improving the amenities of the area through which the byway runs ((S1(1)(f) RTRA 84)) and for the purpose of conserving the natural beauty of the area ((S22(2) RTRA 84)). So we cannot be expected to believe that this proposal has anything to do with repair and maintenance of the damaged sections of the route.

The Authority is proposing an “Experimental TRO”. What exactly is the Authority expecting to happen experimentally over the 18 month period of operation? That the water flows somehow diminish and change course, and that the route miraculously repairs itself? The only reference to the future state of the route is indicated in the statement, “The Authority will work with the Highway Authority ( Derbyshire County Council) to ensure the route is maintained and any future use is sustainable.” No mention is made of repair or the standard of maintenance.

Reference is made to the 2005 Defra ‘Report of a research project on motor vehicles on byways open to all traffic’, but the claim is made that the report “shows the presence of a recreational motor vehicle impacts more on amenity than an agricultural vehicle.” This is not true and should not be stated on the Authority’s website. There is no such reference in the report and the consultants were not asked to (and did not) report on the concept of ‘amenity’. However, the report did say that, “There was no evidence of widespread damage to the byway network from motor vehicles, whether they were recreational vehicles or using byways for land management.”

The Statement then makes the comment that, “the Authority recognises that Chapel Gate passes through an area where users can experience feelings of wildness, remoteness and associated tranquillity. There is also an impact on these experiences when vehicles are not present but there are obvious signs of motor vehicles passing eg vehicle ruts are present.” This is patently absurd, because, for the Authority to be consistent, the same rationale would have to be applied to each track in the Park open only to agricultural vehicles with their deeper and more regularly created ruts. I am sure the National Park is not legally constituted to imagine what effect insignificant ground topology is having on the emotions of Park visitors.

Finally, If the Park Authority were serious about repair and maintenance, then I am sure the vehicle user groups would agree to a temporary TRO for, say, 6 months to allow for repair, for which their help would be provided. In the absence of user involvement and an agreed repair plan to be completed in an appropriate timescale, then I find this proposal totally unacceptable.

Yours sincerely "

"The official documents are in the public domain on PDNP’s web site at this URL www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/chapelgate that is quoted below, but I suggest we confine our “call to arms” to members-only web forums.

The proposed ETRO does not refer to any remedial action that will be undertaken under cover of the ETRO; I thought this was an essential purpose of a TRO. There is mention of a recommendation made by the Peak District LAF and this is a lot more comprehensive than is suggested below. It does propose work to be carried out during the ETRO. The LAF adopted a report prepared by the Vehicle User Sub-group; this report can be seen here

Report http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/lafbg100918-item7.pdf

Map http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/lafbg100918-item6map.pdf

Photos http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/lafbg100918-item6photos.pdf

Annexes http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/lafbg100918-item6annexes.pdf "

" I wish to object to the experimental TRO proposal for Chapel Gate. Whilst the LAF discussed a range of options, ultimately suggesting the action you are proposing, there is documentation of the need for maintenance of the route. As your ecological impact document asserts, the damage to the BOAT is due to a combination of MPVs, walkers and especially draining water. Except for a wish to work with DCC, who appear unwilling to maintain the BOAT, your proposal does not suggest that any repairs will be undertaken during the period of closure and so it is difficult to imagine that any improvement for non-MPV users will occur as water drainage is an ongoing problem.

Additionally, I consider that your statement on the amenity value of the area is misleading. As you state, Chapel Gate is 3km in length, running from a minor road to Sheffield Road. Thus at any point along the route one is never more than 1.5km from a heavily used road and thus vehicle noise and sighting is likely at many points. Indeed, throughout much of the Dark Peak roads, railways and quarries are visible from footpaths and access land. It is also notable that Jacob’s Ladder has been extensively resurfaced in recent years and is now readily visible from many parts of the Edale Horseshoe and by satellite imaging thereby further negating your statement that the area around Chapel Gate is unaffected by signs of modern human influence.

Finally I would be grateful if you could clarify which part of “Report of a research project on motor vehicles on byways open to all traffic” (DEFRA, 2005) states that recreational MPVs affect amenity more than agricultural vehicles as I have been unable to find it and know that agricultural traffic is widespread in the Hope Valley.

I hope that the PDNPA will consider all comments objectively and in the context of applicable legislation in a manner which is equitable to all users of the Peak District.

Yours sincerely"

The relevant thread on the GLASS forum, if you have access.

http://forum.glass-uk.org/viewtopic.php?t=3439

There are links to enable people to do their own research, or easier points which can be rewritten in your own words.

Do NOT copy paste all from one section.

HTH

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If you have a drink in your hand, it might be best to put it down now.

I have asked, and been given permission to repeat this. The originator will be using it in his own response to the Peak Park, but he "would be interested to hear the reaction and other people's interpretation of the prevailing weather conditions from the weather reports that I Googled."

The pictures are those included in Post #1 of this thread.

"You may be interested in a couple of observations regarding the press release put out by the Peak Park. The photographs attached to the the release contain metadata that records the time and date that the photos were taken and the make/model of the camera used etc.

I was interested that the photos are being used to promote a "bad motorists inconvenience good walkers and cyclists" message especially with the photo of cyclists and walkers negotiating a wet section of the track.

This photo of the bikes does not have a valid date/time tag but the other was tagged as 17/03/2007.

Given the conditions portrayed, I decided to check weather reports for that time and found that it was a particularly wet period from the start of the month with unusually high temperatures, a strong SW wind and heavy, prolonged rain.

Ideal conditions if you wish to portray the conditions as being as bad as possible and not an accurate contemporary image to illustrate the current state of repair of the route.

Are the Peak Park being smart in their image selection or am I crediting them with more cunning than they deserve?

Regards"

Cheers, David.

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This is a serious issue, and I don't believe that they'll rescind the TRO after 18 months. Here's the email I just sent, for anyone to take pieces from or plagiarise as you see fit:

Mike,

I'd like to object to the proposed TRO on Chapel Gate, and to make some observations and suggestions. I have known and enjoyed this route, by driving and on foot, for over ten years, and I am concerned for its use and sustainability.

The assessment of ecological impacts raises concerns at a number of points along the route, particularly where the lane has been worn down to the bedrock and has formed 'steps'. These steps have not changed in the ten years that I have known the route and are unlikely to wear further, indeed they have become a feature of the route in common with many similar paths in the area, and now form part of the landscape. That some users are choosing alternative routes away from the line of the track is a management issue, and should not be tackled with a TRO. In any case, these sections of the track will not recover through reduced use, and the pedestrian and two-wheeled traffic will continue to avoid these sections.

For the level sections of the track which undoubtedly show poor drainage, it is likely that some of the 'peaty' parts of the track would recover under reduced vehicular traffic - over time the ruts would fade, but presently these ruts are providing a drainage route for excess water, so the level parts of the track would likely become more boggy and encourage walkers to take a wider route around the worst affected areas - in this way the route will spill across more and more of the open countryside and present a substantially worse situation than at present.

The open aspect of the setting is one of the most attractive facets of the lane, and one which draws users on their various forms of transport. It is folly to suggest that the visual and noise pollution of vehicular use is a reasonable justification for a TRO, since the area is dominated by the strong winds that the District is famous for, and the levels of traffic on Chapel Gate are contextually small in comparison to the agricultural work which goes on all around, as part of the sustainable landscape that we currently enjoy.

I don't feel that an 18-month TRO is a proportionate response to these problems. The responsibility for maintaining the route remains with the local authority, and your report suggests that a substantial proportion of the damage to the lane has been caused by water draining from the surrounding land. The poor management of this drainage borders on negligent, and it is certainly not too late for responsible action to improve the route. Some careful management of these runoff streams, with signage / fencing to constrain two-wheeled and pedestrian use of the route, would allow the route sustainably to remain open to all.

If we accept that vehicular traffic is contributing to the degradation of the lane (in conjunction with the drainage issues) and that the bedrock will somehow recover through reduced levels of traffic, the authority should explore other options before imposing a TRO. It would be possible to engage with local user groups and through signage to impose a voluntary (or mandated) one-way restriction to ensure users primarily travelled down hill, or to restrict use during the wettest parts of the year, a measure used successfully on the Ridgeway in Wiltshire or the Gap Road in south Wales. If the route is truly intended to recover through resting, it should be closed to all motorised, wheeled and pedestrian traffic in order that the diversionary routes around the track can also return to their prior state.

I hope that PDNPA can find a sensible solution to this issue which is equitable for all the users of the area. If the experimental TRO goes ahead despite my comments, I would like to be kept informed of the measures which are taken through the duration of the 18-month period to monitor the recovering condition of the lane please.

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