An interesting amendment from the pressure group Gleam to the Environment Bill.
Proposed amendment Section 7, Environmental Improvement Plan.
To assist in informing the Environmental Improvement Plan, the Secretary of State will carry out a public consultation on whether driving a motor vehicle for recreational purposes on unsealed tracks in the countryside, in particular in protected landscapes, should continue to be permitted.
Explanation of amendment.
The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 protected footpaths and bridleways from use and damage by recreational motor vehicles but it left unprotected a further 3000 miles of countryside tracks. These are the nation’s green lanes. They are being used and damaged by 4x4s, motor bikes and quad bikes being driven for recreational purposes. This amendment is the first step in closing the loophole in the NERC Act which is permitting environmental damage being done to green lanes. The amendment does not
bring into question the rights of landowners or residents, the drivers of essential motor vehicles or people with disabilities who use mobility scooters.
The amendment was introduced by Lord Bradshaw.
My Lords, the stated purpose of the Environment Bill is to improve the natural environment and the 2019 Glover review of the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty that called for radical change in the way we protect our landscape. The review stressed the need for us to take urgent steps to recover and enhance nature. One thing that is causing damage to the natural environment and to our fragile and precious landscapes is that 4×4 vehicles, motorbikes and quad bikes are allowed to be driven for purely recreational purposes on unsealed tracks all over the countryside, including in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The only reason this is allowed to happen is because the law as it stands states that a countryside track, whatever it may be, which has been used in the past by horsedrawn carts, carries a right of way for any kind of modern motor vehicle.
Parliament attempted to deal with this problem in 2006 in the passage of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act. It put a stop to the historic use of horsedrawn carts, giving rise to the use of cars and motorbikes on footpaths and bridleways, but it left unprotected over 3,000 miles of other tracks in the countryside that have no right of way classification. These are the country’s green lanes. They are all open to use and abuse by recreational motor vehicles, and as a result, great damage is being done, even on the high fells. The amendment I will seek to table does not ask for an immediate change in the law, and if passed, it would require the Secretary of State to return to the business that was left unfinished by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act and to carry out a public consultation on whether the loophole left behind by that Act should be closed.