Conservation Prevails: Court rules that intelligent application of Sandford Principle is lawful.
The High Court has found the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) acted lawfully in deciding that trail riding on green roads did not present a conflict with its duty to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the national park.
The LDNPA has been subject of vigorous campaigning to close two green roads to motorised traffic, which culminated in a legal challenge on behalf of the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement (GLEAM), who sought to overturn the LDNPA decision to adopt an inclusive approach that sought to treat all parties fairly, rather than immediately rush to impose the ban on motor vehicles that GLEAM prefers and campaigns for.
GLEAM sought to lower the legal bar for requiring a National Park Authority to impose a ban, arguing that the Sandford Principle should be interpreted and applied in a blunt, absolutist manner which would have required restriction of public access whenever any degree of conflict between public access and the environment occurred.
We participated in the case as an interested party in order to argue and advance the interests of responsible motorcyclists.
The judgement has prevented GLEAM from lowering the legal bar to such a level that it would compel National Park Authorities to restrict all forms of public access. The impact of the ruling extends far beyond the issue of motorcycling on two green roads, as all forms of public access in National Parks - whether motorised or non-motorised - were threatened by GLEAM’s challenge. GLEAM’s loss is very much a success for the interests of all
forms of public access.
TRF reinforced the LDNPA’s successful argument that GLEAM’s interpretation of the law would be both illogical and unworkable. LDNPA correctly identified that the practical application of GLEAM’s interpretation of the Sandford Principle would be detrimental to all forms of public access, giving the example of path erosion caused by pedestrians, cyclists or equestrians being the trigger to prioritise conservation of the environment (i.e. by banning pedestrian/cyclist/equestrian access) without any consideration of whether or not the path erosion could be managed so as to resolve the conflict between pedestrian/cyclist/equestrian access and the environment.
The Court accepted LDNPA’s defence, finding that GLEAM’s argument would impact where erosion is “....caused to popular paths by walkers, cyclists or horse riders”.
The Sandford Principle was saved from being interpreted in a clumsy, blunt and absolutist manner, such that it would have required bans to be imposed on pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians where their use erode paths. The principles of discretion, inclusivity and seeking consensus have prevailed to the public's benefit.
The full judgement can be found here
LDNPA can now progress its decision to form a Partnership Management Group as a means to advance National Park purposes.