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TRF appeal against inspector’s bridleway decisions on Peak District green lane lost in the High Court

March 2015

As reported in GLEAM’s Autumn 2014 newsletter, the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) had appealed to the High Court against an inspector’s decision that an unsealed unclassified county road (UUCR) called Bradley Lane, was a bridleway, and not a BOAT, as originally decided by Derbyshire County Council.  Mr Justice Collins issued his judgment (available at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2015/85.html) on 26 January 2015.  He dismissed the TRF’s grounds of appeal, saying the inspector’s decision could not “be impugned unless it was one which could not rationally have been reached or which was erroneous because of a failure to have regard to a material particular or because regard had been had to an immaterial particular.”  The judge considered that the inspector had had regard to all the relevant historical evidence and evidence relating to modern motor vehicle use.  As to the TRF’s argument that the inspector’s decision was irrational, the judge said that the inspector “could properly have concluded in the [TRF’s] favour, but the condition of [Bradley Lane], described in the 1930s as “Bad, grass grown and little used” and not significantly improved since, coupled with the history which is inconclusive and certainly does not show with any degree of clarity that vehicular use was or is available as of right, entitled [the inspector] to conclude as he did” i.e. that it is a bridleway.

The TRF’s appeal to the High Court was its second attempt to overturn the inspector’s bridleway decision.  Its first attempt was a standard letter which was used by most of the 50-odd objectors to the inspector’s interim decision to modify the BOAT order to bridleway.  This letter attacked the inspector’s approach to the historical evidence and his views on the evidence of modern motor vehicle use.  The objectors using this letter ignored the facts that only 2 motor vehicle users gave oral evidence at the first inquiry compared to 7 local people who gave oral evidence that motor vehicle use did not take place over the whole of the 20 year period required for statutory dedication, and that there were problems with the quality of the written user evidence.

When the TRF made its appeal on Bradley Lane to the High Court, it issued a press release in which it said it was asking for financial support from other organisations because the outcome would be “highly relevant to upcoming orders and inquiries”, specifically those involving UUCRs, which it assumes all have public vehicular rights.  However, Mr Justice Collins did not accept the TRF’s arguments about the significance of Bradley Lane being a UUCR, but agreed with the inspector’s view that this did not necessarily mean it was a vehicular highway.   The appeal seems therefore to have been a waste of the TRF’s money.