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The use of Traffic Regulation Orders to restrict motor vehicle use of green lanes
By Diana Mallinson

Updated October 2019


1. This note provides some information about the history of traffic regulation legislation as it applies to green lanes in England and Wales, considers some recent relevant legal challenges and guidance and summarises changes which have been requested.


2. Powers to control motor vehicle use of green lanes have been included in legislation since the Road Traffic Act of 1930. Section 46 of this Act allowed the Minister to prohibit or restrict the driving of vehicles on specified roads where he was satisfied that “vehicles cannot be used…without endangering the safety of the vehicles or the persons therein, or of other persons using the road, or that the road is unsuitable … for unrestricted use by .. vehicles.” This act and the subsequent legislation define road as any “highway [or] any other road to which the public has access” i.e. traffic regulation orders (TROs) can be made for any highway, whether or not it has proven public motor vehicle rights. Subsequent legislation has extended the power to make TROs to county councils and unitary authorities (traffic authorities) and expanded the range of reasons for making them. In 2006/7 the power to make TROs was extended to national park authorities for roads shown in the definitive map and statement as a byway open to all traffic, a restricted byway, a bridleway or a footpath, and for unsealed or predominately unsealed carriageways [1].

3. The TRO is a versatile tool which may prohibit, restrict or regulate the use of any type, section, length, width or part of the width of a highway; by any type, weight, width or direction of vehicle; for any period of time, as specified in the order. The power for traffic authorities to make TROs is thus not limited to green lanes but is the power under which e.g. parking restrictions, weight restrictions and one-way streets are authorised [2]. This means that traffic authorities should be experienced in making traffic regulation orders.

4. As far as is known, the first time this power was used on green lanes was in 1938, when Cheshire County Council made two orders (which remain in force today), prohibiting recreational motor vehicle use of Bank Lane, Rainow, and Oven Lane, Macclesfield Forest [3]. Bank Lane was popular as a hill climb (known as the Corkscrew) with motor vehicle manufacturers and drivers who wanted to test their vehicles in the 1930s, and the order for Bank Lane has an exemption for trials organised under permit from the Royal Automobile Club or the Auto Cycle Union.

Reasons for TROs

5. Under current legislation, the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (RTRA 1984), authorities can make permanent TROs for one or more of the following purposes:

  • for avoiding danger to persons or other traffic using the road or any other road or for preventing the likelihood of such danger arising
  • for preventing damage to the road or to any building on or near the road
  • for facilitating the passage on the road…. of any class of traffic (including pedestrians)
  • for preventing the use of the road by vehicular traffic of a kind which, or its use by vehicular traffic in a manner which, is unsuitable having regard to the existing character of the road or adjoining property
  • for preserving the character of the road in a case where it is specially suitable for use by persons on horseback or on foot
  • for preserving or improving the amenities of the area through which the road runs
  • for any of the purposes specified in paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (1) of section 87 of the Environment Act 1995 (air quality) [4]
  • for conserving or enhancing the natural beauty of the area [5]

For roads in or adjacent to “special areas in the countryside”, the list of purposes is expanded to include:

  • i. for affording better opportunities for the public to enjoy the amenities of the area, or recreation or the study of nature in the area

“Special areas in the countryside” include:

  • National Parks
  • Areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs)
  • Country parks
  • Nature reserves
  • Long distance routes
  • Land held by the National Trust inalienably
  • Sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs)

The Secretary of State can make a TRO for a road in a special area in the countryside, following a request from Natural England or the Countryside Council for Wales (now Natural Resources Wales), if the traffic authority refuses to do so [6].

Contravention of a TRO is an offence which renders the offender liable to a fine currently of up to £1,000.

Section 122 RTRA 1984 lists various factors which authorities must consider, when using their TRO powers:

1. It shall be the duty of every local authority…. so to exercise the functions conferred on them by this Act as (so far as practicable having regard to the matters specified in subsection (2) below) to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic (including pedestrians) and the provision of suitable and adequate parking facilities on and off the highway…

2. The matters referred to in subsection (1) above … are-

  • (a) the desirability of securing and maintaining reasonable access to premises;
  • (b) the effect on the amenities of any locality affected….
  • (c) the importance of facilitating the passage of public service vehicles…
  • (d) any other matters appearing to the local authority to be relevant.

It will be obvious that most of these factors relate to TROs imposing weight limits, parking restrictions etc, not to TROs on green lanes. However authorities must show, when proposing a TRO on a green lane, that they have considered these factors (see below).

6. Of the 10 TROs made by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) which currently prevent recreational motor vehicle use of green lanes, all are for the purpose of conserving the natural beauty of the area, nine are also for preserving its amenity and one is also for the purpose of preventing damage to the road. Of the 6 TROs made by the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) and one resolved to be made, all are for the purposes of conserving or enhancing the natural beauty of the area and preserving or improving its amenities, and two are also for preventing unsuitable use.

7. Authorities can also make experimental (time-limited) traffic orders under RTRA 1984, for the purpose of “carrying out an experimental scheme of traffic control” [7]. These have been used in the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District National Parks to assess the effects of restricting recreational motor vehicles, before deciding to make permanent TROs.

Recent legal challenges to TROs and guidance

Procedural errors

8. The Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) has been successful in legal challenges to TROs on green lanes where the authority making the TRO has failed to follow the procedures specified in legislation. The High Court has quashed TROs because failures to follow procedure have resulted in procedural unfairness e.g. a TRO made by Durham County Council where background papers mentioned in the 2015 committee report were not listed in the report nor made available to the public before the committee meeting. A TRO made by North Yorkshire County Council in 2016 was challenged by the TRF and quashed by consent because the County Council had not notified objectors to the proposed order within the required timescale that the order had been made. An experimental TRO made by Wiltshire Council in 2018 on green lanes which run near Stonehenge was quashed by the High Court, following a challenge by the TRF, because the Council had not consulted the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association and the police, as required by the relevant legislation, the local authorities’ traffic orders (procedure) regulations [8].


9. When legislation (e.g. the regulations by which traffic authorities and national park authorities make TROs) specifies consultation, case law has established criteria for such consultation. These are:

First, that consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage. Second, that the proposer must give sufficient reasons for any proposal to permit of intelligent consideration and response. Third … that adequate time must be given for consideration and response and, finally, fourth, that the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any statutory proposals.[9]

In its guidance to national park authorities on their TRO powers, Defra recommended similar criteria:

Consult at a point “before the mind of the decision maker becomes unduly fixed.”Consultees should be given a reasonable opportunity to make effective representations and influence the outcome of the process….; Ensure the consultation is as specific as possible – setting out the parameters that are being considered by the National Park Authority. It is acceptable if views are sought on a range of options including a TRO. However, it should be made clear that the National Park Authority is serious about pursuing it rather than just canvassing views….[10]

In September 2013 Defra, in a letter to the Peak District National Park Authority, gave its view on some of the administrative requirements of the law relating to public consultation by National Park authorities on TROs. It said that where there have been a considerable number of objections to a proposed TRO, the authority’s analysis of the grounds given in those objections may show that the grounds come down to a few main points. If the authority decides, after consideration of these points, to reject them, it must clearly state its reasons for doing so, and may then prepare a single response to objectors giving its reasons for rejecting each point.

A Defra minister has said in Parliament that local authorities should “fully consider and respond to any representations they receive” about TROs they propose on green lanes [11].

Section 122 RTRA 1984

10. There has been debate about how the factors in this section should be balanced by the authority in considering whether to make a TRO. The Court of Appeal discussed the previous case law in this debate in a judgment in 2019, in which it rejected a challenge by the TRF to a TRO made by Hampshire County Council on three green lanes. The Court concluded this discussion by summarising the approach “which should be adopted by traffic authorities in considering whether to make a TRO:-

1) the decision-maker should have in mind the duty (as set out in section 122(1) of the 1984 Act) to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic (including pedestrians) so far as practicable;
2) the decision-maker should then have regard to factors which may point in favour of imposing a restriction on that movement; such factors will include the effect of such movement on the amenities of the locality and any other matters appearing to be relevant [section 122(2)(b) and (d)] which will include all the factors mentioned in section 1 of the 1984 Act as being expedient in deciding whether a TRO should be made; and
3) the decision-maker should then balance the various considerations and come to the appropriate decision.[12]

This is a useful summary because it specifically links the duty on authorities to secure expeditious, convenient and safe movement of all types of traffic with the reasons given for restricting one type (e.g. motor vehicles) of that traffic.

Trail Riders Fellowship and others v Powys County Council [2013] EWHC 3144 (Admin)

11. In this case, the TRF, the Green Lane Association Ltd (GLASS) and one of GLASS’s representatives, Christopher Marsden, challenged TROs made prohibiting motor and horse-drawn vehicle traffic on two BOATs in Powys. Mr Marsden had in 2012 complained to the Magistrates’ Court against Powys County Council’s refusal to repair these BOATs, a complaint which the magistrates dismissed. At the time when the County Council was deciding whether to make the TROs, Mr Marsden’s appeal against the magistrates’ decision was being decided by the Crown Court. The TRF and GLASS challenged the TROs on several grounds, only one of which grounds was successful. The judge quashed the TROs on the ground that the committee which made the TRO decisions could have been influenced by wording in the report they had received from their officers, which said that not making the TROs would jeopardise the County Council’s defence against Mr Marsden’s appeal on the repair issue in the Crown Court. In rejecting some of the other grounds of challenge, the judge considered that the committee had had regard to its duty under s122 RTRA 1984 (see above), and rejected the TRF’s and GLASS’s submission that s122 implied that a TRO banning vehicular traffic at all times should be an exceptional case, as being “without legal foundation in statute or authority.” The judge also rejected the challenge that the County Council had been irrational in not adopting less restrictive TROs e.g. winter closure, saying that the purposes for which the orders were made were not limited to preventing damage and that purposes such as safety “would not have been served by less restrictive orders.”

12. These judgments clarify what authorities must take into account when deciding to make experimental and permanent TROs and the importance of making a rational decision on the basis of evidence relevant to the reasons specified in RTRA 1984. They do not support the argument commonly put forward by recreational motor vehicle users that TROs should always be the least restrictive possible. Authorities should consult widely before proposing a permanent TRO and follow the regulations strictly. They should ensure that their proposals are supported by evidence that the TRO will be effective in meeting the purpose or purposes specified in the order.

Possible changes to the TRO system

13. GLEAM has been campaigning for a change to legislation to provide an appeal mechanism (as exists in other areas of highway law e.g. against an authority’s refusal to repair) when an authority repeatedly refuses to consider making a TRO [13].

14. National Parks England, representing the ten National Park authorities (NPAs) in England, gave evidence to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft Deregulation Bill in September 2013 which included proposals relating to TRO procedures. These proposals were to clarify the potential for an NPA to make a TRO on a route while one made by the traffic authority is in force; to allow NPAs to make a TRO which provides for the issue and display of certificates identifying vehicles excluded from the TRO; for NPAs to be able to use whatever means are deemed appropriate for advertising proposals and orders; to be able to use a standard notice of decision when responding to objections (see above for Defra’s response); and to provide an expedient process for amendment or revocation of TROs. [14].

15. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 recommended, in its report in 2018, that:

The Government should take steps to simplify the process for – and thus reduce the costs of – establishing Traffic Regulation Orders, with the aim of securing better value, greater flexibility and applicability in the use of TROs to manage problems resulting from ‘green-laning’. This might include provision for more selective closures, reduction in bureaucracy in the application process and reduced, updated, advertising requirements.


[1] Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 22BB (as amended)
[2] Rights of Way: A Guide to Law and Practice, John Riddall and John Trevelyan, 4th edition, 2007, 7.7.1
[3] PDGLA Newsletter May 2013, page 5 and The Raven, No.19 Summer 2012, page 7 http://www.rainow.com/
[4] Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 1 (as amended)
[5] Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, sections 22 and 22A (as amended)
[6] Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 22 (as amended)
[7] Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 9
[8] Trail Riders Fellowship v Wiltshire Council [2018] EWHC 3600 (Admin)
[9] Trail Riders Fellowship v Hampshire County Council [2019] EWCA Civ 1275, paragraph 51
[10] Guidance for National Park Authorities making Traffic Regulation Orders under section 22BB Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, Defra, 2007, page 15
[11] Answer by Lord Gardiner of Kimble to written question HL17709, 9 September 2019
[12] Trail Riders Fellowship v Hampshire County Council [2019] EWCA Civ 1275, paragraph 40
[13] GLEAM Newsletter Spring 2014 page 4
[14] National Parks England – Written evidence to Joint Committee on the Draft Deregulation Bill