Court rules Dorset council must consider byways bid

Trail biker Image copyright Dave Croker
Image caption Off-road motorcyclists are not permitted to use restricted byways such as public footpaths

Dorset County Council must reconsider an application for rights of way for off-road vehicles, following a judgement by the Supreme Court.

The authority previously rejected a bid by the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) to add rights for bikes and 4x4s to its records of five countryside tracks.

The court ruled the authority was wrong to reject the applications.

The council would not reveal the extent of its legal costs but said it would pay TRF's bill of £10,000.

It will now discuss and consult on the TRF applications.

They date back more than 10 years, before a change in the law extinguished unrecorded rights of way for "mechanically propelled vehicles".

'Value for money'

In 2004, Friends of Dorset's Rights of Way applied to have five routes recorded as "byways open to all traffic"

They were: Bailey Drove in Batcombe, bridleways at Cheselbourne and Dewlish, a route in Tarrant Gunville and two separate tracks in Beaminster.

TRF, which campaigns to preserve green lanes or byways, where all vehicles are permitted, took up the application but Dorset County Council refused it in 2010 because the council said the maps TRF used were not of the required scale.

Council leader Robert Gould said: "This ruling gives us a reasoned, balanced outcome that we can apply consistently in the future.

"Modifications to the definitive map often raise opposing viewpoints. Our job is to consider the evidence presented and apply the law before deciding whether the map and statement should be changed."

The case has already been through the High Court and Court of Appeal.

When asked what the council had spent on the appeal, a spokeswoman said: "It is in the public interest that the council continues to ensure it is receiving the best possible value for money when determining its contracts with external providers... Release of this information may jeopardise that situation."

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