News that the two leading organisations protecting the use of green roads are to work more closely has been widely welcomed and comes as no surprise, given that at least 20,000 motorcyclists regularly use green roads in England and Wales for recreational purposes. As a fair proportion of those riders also indulge in off-road competition, they account for significant sales in the trail and competition sectors. Maintaining this market is obviously in the interests of the motorcycle industry, and preserving access to green roads is an essential part of the process.
To this end, the National Motorcyclists Council (NMC) and the Land Access and Recreation Association (LARA) have formalised their existing partnership by agreeing on a “Memorandum of Understanding”, combining their joint strengths to further enhance the lobby around green roads. The agreement to develop the collaboration follows the successful joint lobby that the NMC and LARA conducted in 2022 regarding DEFRA’s Landscapes Review consultation. This led to the government working more closely with motorised users on issues relating to countryside access, and both organisations are soon to meet DEFRA ministers to discuss how policymaking could be improved.
The memorandum establishes a framework for a co-operative relationship, and its objective is to develop and promote good working practices. These include the protection and advancement of preserving and securing motorised access to green and other minor roads, while furthering the aims of each organisation in relation to motor and motorcycle sport activities.
In recent years the range of threats to motorised access to country roads, be they sealed or unsealed, has increased, with Traffic Regulation Orders limiting access to green roads and other highways. Traffic orders that create controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have also become an increasing threat with regard to tarmacked highways, both rural and urban, as have Definitive Map Modification Orders (DMMO) and Stopping Up Orders for routes. Both organisations also have concerns about the recent reinstatement of the 2030 cut-off date for recording rights of way.
LARA and NMC say the partnership combines the legislative and analytical experience of LARA with the lobbying and public affairs expertise of the NMC. When working together on issues, there will also be the accumulated strength of more than 20 organisations behind their activities.
NMC executive director Craig Carey-Clinch said: “The success of the Landscapes Review campaign last year underlined what can be achieved if we use our ‘constituency’ to best effect by combining forces on shared issues. The public highways and rights-of-way network is a significant national asset for the functional, recreational and leisure use of motor vehicles. Unsealed roads in particular, are under continuing threat of misuse, closure and other restrictions on their use. These threats are starting to spill over to sealed roads, so problems traditionally seen as being about rights of way and other unsealed routes are becoming an issue of concern for all road-riding motorcyclists.”
LARA’s Dave Waterman said: “LARA was established to enable people with an interest in maintaining access to the countryside by motor vehicles to speak to government with a unified voice. Recreational motorists are in the unique position of facing the threat of wholesale loss of longstanding access rights to the public roads network as a knee-jerk reaction to the unacceptable behaviour of a small minority. Whereas the evidence is that, with constructive management measures, a reasonable level of responsible motor-vehicle use benefits all those who seek to enjoy the countryside, by whatever means, and is good for people’s welfare and for biodiversity. The best way to achieve these benefits is through inclusive partnership working.”
Summing up Carey-Clinch added: “With government engagement starting to increase significantly and with ministerial meetings in the diary, the partnership underlines what can be achieved when there is unity of purpose on shared issues across the motorcycle lobby. Both the NMC and LARA are looking forward to the work ahead.”