The UK government has been accused of 'deliberately dragging its feet' over the question of protecting green lanes from damage by armies of Jeremy Clarkson fans in recreational off road vehicles.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Deregulation Bill received more evidence and representations on the need for action on green lanes than on any other aspect of the Bill. It accepted that there is a serious problem with vehicle damage and its report urged action. The Government duly agreed that something must be done, but thus far their response has simply been to promise a new stakeholder group to advise on the green lanes issue.
According to the Green Lanes Protection Group (GLPG), an alliance of 21 walkers' and conservation organisations from the Campaign for National Parks to the Friends of the Lake District, this falls far short of the 'full public consultation' which it promised in its response to the Joint Committee.
The government is also failing to say exactly when the proposed stakeholder group would be set up and start work, and it says it expects the group to find a consensus solution to the problem of motor vehicles using and damaging green lanes.
GLPG believes that a consultation group made up of off-roading interests and organizations opposed to off-roading could never reach agreement, but would be doomed to fail and will simply be wasting time while the 'destruction' of green lanes continues.
Their evidence for this is that the current stakeholder working group advising Defra on rights of way decided to park the off-roading issue because, according to the GLPG, the members knew they would not be able to agree.
The campaign group is trying to get new rights of way clauses into the Deregulation Bill currently going through Parliament which would protect over 3000 miles of green lanes by classifying them as Restricted Byways. Restricted Byways cannot be used by motor vehicles, only by walkers, horse riders, cyclists and horse-drawn carriages.
GLPG spokesman Mike Bartholomew doesn't mince his words.
'The government knows they have to do something and they have said so' he said.
'But rather than mess about with what is bound to be a dysfunctional advisory group, they should show the kind of leadership which led to the end of off-roading on footpaths and bridleways under the 20016 Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act. If they must consult, then Defra should be drawing up its own proposals for new legislation and then go out to the full public consultation the government has promised. If Defra really thinks that a rights of way stakeholder group could reach agreement on offroading on green lanes then they must also have decided that pigs can fly.'