A “precious” road near the M50 has been protected by user groups combining efforts to resist Shire Hall’s court bid to extinguish public rights over it.
Gloucestershire County Council has been thwarted in its attempt to close the 235-yard-long Hanover Green Road which runs south west from the A417 in Redmarley D’Abitot.
Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court found the track to be necessary for the public to use, particularly on foot and by motorcycle, and therefore could not extinguish the rights on the basis that it was not needed for public use.
Gloucestershire County Council, as the highway authority subject to a duty to assert and protect public interests to enjoy the highway and keep it free from obstruction, made the application to extinguish public rights at the request of a landowner.
In finding that the route was necessary for public use, magistrates accepted it was being used by the public and would be used more if the unlawful obstructions were cleared.
Campaign groups the Ramblers, the Open Spaces Society, and the Trail Riders Fellowship jointly instructed lawyers to argue the public case at court.
And Cycling UK helpfully also provided a written representation.
User groups were disappointed and surprised that Gloucestershire Highways made the application at all, in the face of evidence of use, unlawful obstructions, and requests to clear the obstructions.
Rural ‘green roads’, suitable for recreation, are an ever-diminishing resource and, in the case of Hanover Green as a public route with an unsealed surface, are a finite resource, according to the Open Spaces Society.
Such rural public routes are being lost to tarmac and other similar improvements for high-speed traffic, under-recording of highway status, and development of infrastructure and housing, they added.
Jack Cornish, head of paths at the Ramblers, said: “The route is an unspoiled wooded track within an ancient holloway.
“The Ramblers are delighted that the magistrates found it to be a necessary and integral part of the surrounding network of paths, bridleways, and roads.
“Quiet footpath-type green roads like this are important for walking and other forms of recreation.
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said she was pleased that the court recognised the heritage and utility value of the route, and of such highways in general.
Unsurfaced roads are an important part of the recreational highway network, providing a means of access to the countryside for all. This is increasingly relevant to physical and mental well-being.
“We also hope that this sends a clear message to highway authorities and landowners that the unlawful obstruction of a highway cannot be used as an excuse to justify the stopping-up of the public’s rights to use it.”
John Vannuffel, of Trail Riders Fellowship, said the group also welcomed the decision.
“We welcome magistrates accepting our evidence of motorcycle use and recognising the value of such green roads to the public for motorcycling and other similarly traditional and appropriate uses.”
Gloucestershire County Council has accepted the court’s decision.
“Although the county council’s view was that this route was no longer warranted and had applied for it to be stopped up, we accept the court’s decision on this matter,” a spokesperson said.