More off road vehicles could soon be blasting up our green country lanes.
It follows a case in which the High Court recently upheld Hampshire County Council's decision to reclassify two rural bridleways as bridleways open to all traffic (BOATs).
That could mean many more such lanes become accessible to motorcycles and all terrain vehicles, says Birmingham solicitor Williamson & Soden.
"The use of green lanes by motorised vehicles is a controversial issue. While off-road driving has grown in popularity, walkers and those who enjoy horse riding have been quick to complain about the damage these vehicles cause to the countryside," said property specialist Louisa Jakeman.
"Classifying a route as a BOAT is a significant development because this means it can be used by trail bikes and 4x4 vehicles."
Over the years legislation has been introduced to prevent new BOATs being created so as to curb the expansion of off-road leisure activities. The National Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 set a cut off point for applications to establish BOATs but any that were made before January 20, 2005 must be processed. Neighbouring landowners went to court when the Trail Riders' Fellowship (TRF) applied to Hampshire County Council for two paths to be reclassified as bridleways open to all traffic. The authority had agreed, since they had been used by motor vehicles in the past.
Despite strong opposition on environmental and safety grounds from the landowners – who had invested significant sums to rectify damage – and interest groups representing walkers and horse riders, the High Court ruled that TRF's applications could be treated as exceptions under the terms of the Act, which meant the council was entitled to re-categorise the routes as BOATs.
"This case offers regional highways authorities important guidance on how to deal with BOATs, but will also help landowners and pressure groups understand the key issues, so that they can decide how to set about challenging council decisions," added Mrs Jakeman.
"Since there are still many instances where BOATs have yet to be determined, we could see a lot more bridleways being used by quad bikes in the future."