The Peak District is a special place and it is enjoyed by many thousands of visitors.
As the UKs first national park, it should set a precedent for good management.So why are our footpaths changing? Some years ago, we saw swathes of applications to redefine unclassified routes across the Peak District as Byways Open To All Traffic (BOATs).
These applications were broadly upheld and paved the way for unrestricted use by off-roading vehicles and motorcycles. In a new twist, we are seeing applications to ‘upgrade’ other footpaths, including across one of our small, tranquil moors at Eyam to ‘restricted byway’ classification.
There’s very little information on these proposed upgrades but we know that the applications are from outside of the Peak Park.Restricted byways allow access for mountain bikes, horseriders and ‘occasional’ vehicular access. And there lies the conundrum.
Routes which have so far been upgraded to BOAT status are no longer pleasurable for pedestrians because the volume of traffic makes them difficult to walk on, unsightly and often scary.
The new applications – although they are for a different classification - will make a huge impact upon this sensitive area and the designation will blur the distinction of what is permissible. Even the description of a route which allows for ‘occasional use’ by motorised vehicles implies some right of vehicular access.
Despite many reports to the authorities of dangerous driving and encroachment onto routes which do not have vehicular access, precious few people are brought to account.
So shouldn’t we be setting out to protect the footpaths that we have left? Surely, not every footpath should be eligible for an ‘upgrade’ and areas like Eyam Moor need restricted access because there are fragile peat bogs and rare animals.
Upgrading the current footpaths, which only serve walkers would pave the way for significant damage to these narrow paths and erosion of broad swathes of moorland which would encroach beyond the defined paths and remove valuable territory for the flora and fauna.Shouldn’t there be some areas left where a walker does not have to contend with mountain bikes, horses and ‘occasional’ vehicular access?
If you have an objection to the proposed footpath upgrades – you can write to John McElvaney, director of legal services, Derbyshire County Council, County Hall, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3AG before 18 September.